Oprah Dismisses Claims About Frey Memoir

Oprah Winfrey broke her silence about James Frey's disputed memoir of addiction, "A Million Little Pieces," dismissing allegations of falsehoods as "much ado about nothing" and urging readers who have been inspired by the book to "Keep holding on."
Frey, in his first interview since The Smoking Gun story came out, acknowledged he had embellished parts of the book but said that was common for memoirs and defended "the essential truth" of "A Million Little Pieces."

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On Oprah dismissing?

I am not sure what bothers me more, the fact that the author practically admits to lying or the fact that Oprah defends him in order to preserve her image as someone able to pick inspirational books. At any rate, I am willing to wait and see what else is revealed, but I have to say, it is not looking good for Frey. And there is a difference between a memoir and what Frey apparently did, which seems more like flat-out fiction. But we'll see, won't we?

All Hail the Mighty Oprah Winfrey

In Oprah Winfrey's world, therapy trumps the truth anytime. If it helps anyone then it doesn't matter if it is true.

Oprah Dismisses Claim about Frey Memoir

As reported in the New York Times article, by Edward Wyatt, published January 11, 2006, the publisher of A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey, issued a statement saying that, in essence, it did not really matter:

"Memoir is a personal history whose aim is to illuminate, by way of example, events and issues of broader social consequence," said a statement issued by Doubleday and Anchor Books, the divisions of Random House Inc. that published the book in hardcover and paperback, respectively. "By definition, it is highly personal. In the case of Mr. Frey, we decided 'A Million Little Pieces' was his story, told in his own way, and he represented to us that his version of events was true to his recollections."

I tend to agree. In the 1997 Pulitzer Prize winning Angela's Ashes: A Memoir, by Frank McCourt, did Smoking Gun check the accuracy of McCourt's conversation/memory when at the age of three he got off the seesaw and let his brother Malachy, then age two, plummet to the ground and injure his tongue, giving the account in bloody detail? Did McCourt have exact recall of conversations between his mother and father and the neighbors? I think not. Did all of the conversations and events occur exactly as written? It starts with him wearing rags for diapers, for god's sake.

Or, what about another extremely well-known, well-reviewed and beautifully written memoir The Liars Club, by Mary Karr? Did all of the conversations and events happen exactly as written? That's the beauty of a memoir. Most literate people know they are not reading a biography--with end notes and documented research--when they read a memoir.

The following further defines a "memoir", again from NYT, by Edward Wyatt, published, January 11, 2006,

"Calling something a memoir puts the reader on notice that it is a personal perspective and it is, by definition, skewed," said Alice Martell, a literary agent in New York, whose clients include Janice Erlbaum, author of the forthcoming memoir "Girlbomb." "Who is to say what is the definitive account of an event? By calling it memoir, you are saying: 'It is my take. I did not research this as a disinterested third party.' "

I further agree with this excerpt from the New York Times piece, by Eward Wyatt, published, January 12, 2006, quoting Nan A.Talese, saying that a memoir cannot be held to the same standard as history or biography:

"Nonfiction is not a single monolithic category as defined by the best-seller list," she said yesterday when asked to comment on her husband's remarks. "Memoir is personal recollection. It is not absolute fact. It's how one remembers what happened. That is different from history and criticism and biography, and they cannot be measured by the same yardstick."

At least James Frey and the writers of these articles put their names on what they have written. Is there a reason Smoking Gun's article has no by-line?

Re:Oprah Dismisses Claim about Frey Memoir

In the 1997 Pulitzer Prize winning Angela's Ashes: A Memoir, by Frank McCourt, did Smoking Gun check the accuracy of McCourt's conversation/memory when at the age of three he got off the seesaw and let his brother Malachy, then age two, plummet to the ground and injure his tongue, giving the account in bloody detail?

I doubt it, but they surely would have investigated if a claim was raised that McCourt had in fact grown up in a nice house and was raised by a middle-class family. Or something else a bit more essential to the story than a single childhood anecdote. I don't think yours is a fair comparison to the current controversy over Frey. Even the Smoking Gun article acknowledges that memoirs can never be 100% accurate. No one with half a brain would complain that the conversations were not transcribed from a contemporaneous tape recording or that every detail was accounted for. But the events which TSG alleges were changed are fairly substantial to this story of a self-described "Alcoholic and a Drug Addict and a Criminal". If his "Criminal" past was so minor, why not focus on the first two rather than embellish and distort the third item into something unrecognizable, and fairly easily discoverable as untrue? Or, you know, just shop the book as straight-up fiction (which, notably, he tried numerous times...personally, I think the same book published as a "novel" would have sunk like a stone; horribly written tripe that it is).

At least James Frey and the writers of these articles put their names on what they have written. Is there a reason Smoking Gun's article has no by-line?

I would assume this is standard TSG policy, because my quick random check of their archives turned up nothing with a byline. However, their staff list provides the name of only one reporter and a few editors, so maybe they just find it unnecessary.

Re:Oprah Dismisses Claim about Frey Memoir

I can assure you I have a full brain. I think the most important message in Frey's memoir has to do with the way he dealt with his drug and alcohol addiction. I found the story compelling--whether fact or fiction--and well written. Perhaps Smoking Gun hopes all the attention will garner a second reporter?
  Really, I don't care about any of this. A Million Little Pieces was and is a good read, has helped many people and is now getting trashed because it was an Oprah pick. All I have to say about that is at least Oprah has gotten a nation of people to read.

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