Thursday, January 12, 2006

The James Frey Experience

There's a little literary scandal building around James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. In case you don't know, story one is this trustafarian author's "tale" (and the scare quotes are there for a reason) of crime, drugs, and kicking off same by going into rehab. Story two is the sequel. People die and the author cries a lot about them in the novels, and then goes on Oprah in real life. That's what I've heard. No, I haven't read them: there's a lack of English-language bookshops here. The books don't sound like me at all. But literary fraud has always fascinated me, and the author sound like a major league (as in 20,000 leagues under the sea) prick. Cardinal, read the charges.

The first is of plagiarism. John Dolan (the review for the eXile)  alleges that quite a bit of AMLP is stolen from Eddie Little's Another Day in Paradise. Not everything. Just the drug anecdotes. He changed a lot of other things, such as adding "redemptive" endings where there was no redemption before.

The second allegation? Fraud. The Smoking Gun did a lot of investigating of such things as: "Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel" and so on. Basically, they state that James Frey made shit up about "his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw 'wanted in three states.'" This Bad Boy ain't so Bad after all, unless you count conning the self-help market. 

I don't mind buying a book from an author who admits to warping the truth. Hunter S. Thompson may have had a weird time in Las Vegas with Oscar Zeta Acosta, but it wasn't as weird as what happened in Fear and Loathing. William S. Burroughs could have based Naked Lunch on the most depraved existence imaginable in Tangiers, but I'm still pretty sure Mugwumps don't exist. It's no problem for me. Writers can bend reality like a Moebius strip as long as they're up-front about it somewhere along the line.

Now, that James Frey character - the way I heard about him talk about himself, he's harder than the Kray brothers, yet with a sensitive side TOO. He ain't faking it either: AMLP is 100% the real story of accept-no-substitutes Mr. Frey.

Until it isn't.

And then his mystique breaks into a million little pieces. Well, at least the title is true.

(Link back to Steve Gilliard. Again.)