January 26, 2006

Jonathan Franzen's all, "Dude, I told you not to go on Oprah..."

So, there's all the hubbub about James Frey.

Personally, I just don't care if he exaggerated, or elaborated, or made some things up to help the story. As far as I'm concerned, A Million Little Pieces was still a good book (and so was My Friend Leonard). It's not as if I picked it up in order to learn something specific about 12-step programs, or The Truth about some major historical figure. But that's just me: I was looking for a good story, and he delivered.

There is the real issue of the integrity of billing something as "non-fiction," when some of it is made up. That does bother me to some extent - why not just say "based on a true story" if you're going to fictionalize part of it? - but again, it honestly doesn't bother me THAT much. Maybe if I had more invested in the subject matter? Personally, I assume that "invoking artistic license" is common during the writing of most memoirs. And history books. I feel like truth is subjective, to a certain extent. Maybe that's overly generous of me, or maybe I'm giving Frey too much credit. I just don't feel duped, is all. Maybe once I'm over my jet lag I'll be all up in arms, but for now, for me, I think it's much ado about not much.

1 comment:

Big Mo said...

Completely agree. Nothing is "true."

Only Oprah thinks so, though I'm not sure whether she really thinks so or if she just needs to seem like she thinks so in order to contine to appeal to naive midwestern housewives who still think so.

The real question is, do they (Frey's books) work as novels? And I think the answer is no. They aren't...well, BELIEVABLE enough to be good fiction. Parts feel either contrived (as in the ending of My Friend Leonard) or purposeless (many pages of both books) if they aren't actually true. The style is cool but the characters and storylines are cliche city.

So: kudos to the New York publishing houses for passing on Frey's manuscript when he was shopping it around as a novel. Why doesn't Oprah give THEM a good pat on the back?