Thursday, January 12, 2006

L'Affaire James Frey

A few people have asked me what I think about the current literary scandals, particularly the memoir-oriented James Frey case. Actually, a few of those who asked did so admitting they could already guess my take on it. They know I've never had much patience for what I consider nontruth in nonfiction. And by the way, I still consider memoir a sub-genre of nonfiction, with all nonfiction's attendant characteristics, rewards, and responsibilities.

Maybe that explains, in part, why I really haven't wanted to take on l'Affaire Frey myself. And maybe today's Publishers Lunch summarizes even more clearly why I haven't focused on the subject here: "It would be an understatement to say there is an abundance of stories on James Frey, his Larry King appearance last night, and Oprah's dramatic last-minute blessing of the 'emotional truth' of however it is that he told his tale. We presume that if you're interested, there's little new we can tell you, just as our subjective assumption is that you've probably already formed a firm opinion on the matter."

Yes. Which isn't to say that I won't comment later, once I've had more time to think about all this. Maybe I'll decide I have something original/potentially new and interesting and enlightening to contribute. I'm also looking forward to Mary Karr's editorial on the subject, which, according to today's PW Daily, is in the works.

But for the moment, I'm confident that you're following the news yourself. In the unlikely event that you aren't, here are just a few recommended readings:


A transcript of last night's Larry King Live Interview with James Frey;

An editorial published in the Los Angeles Times;

And though it's dated (from 2003), this article, "Memoirs: The Novel Approach to Facts", published in The Age, is also highly relevant.


ADDED JANUARY 15, 2006:

Here are two articles/commentaries from today's New York Times with which wholly agree. You'll need to register to read the full pieces; registration is free.

1) Randy Kennedy's "My True Story, More or Less, and Maybe Not at All," which appears on the cover page of the "Week in Review" section.

2) Mary Karr's op-ed, "His So-Called Life".

1 comment:

emilydixieson said...

Since the beginning sales and NYT best seller list numbers, I have been concerned about Oprah's influence on America's sense of literature and on the publishing industry. I like Oprah "just fine," as my grandmother would say, but people who wield large influence and large numbers always give me pause. My original point of concern fundamentally questioned her authority or advisement regarding literature. Not taste, but qualification. And then, I felt, well -- angry that poetry could never benefit from her good word. I guess I'd gotten careless in my suspicions, but now that I see that Oprah, nor her gifted staff or advisors, know basic literary definitions. Humph.