Should We Move A Million Little Pieces To Fiction?


Karen Writes: "I am just a citizen concerned about the mis-classification of James Frey's "non-fiction novel" A Million Little Pieces. I feel the author and publisher should not be the authority over where the book is positioned in our nation's libraries. I feel it should be re-classified and moved to the fiction shelves. I have written to the American Library Association, but have not received any response. Please tell me if this is a valid endeavor? Am I the only one who cares about the integrity of book classifications in our libraries?

I just feel strongly that unsuspecting library patrons in future years will be mislead by this book if it remains in the non-fiction stacks. The author initially wrote this book and pitched to publishers as a novel and has admitted fabricating key portions. I am saddened that major opinion makers such as Oprah Winfrey say it is no big deal to pass off fiction as fact. I am amazed that librarians have not spoken out in this public debate. But maybe I am alone in my concerns."


I made a similar point during the brouhaha over Bellesiles'Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture.Passing off fables that happen to fit a political agendaas documented fact only undermines one's credibility.I have my MLIS and am a regular library user, but if I feelthat librarians are pushing an agenda, guess what, I'll goto the library less often and use the Internet more for myinformation needs.

I actually made the change to fiction today (before seeing this question). I don't think it belongs in biography, he has admitted he tried to sell it as fiction, I believe that is where it belongs.

Thanks so much for responding to my question. I am just a library patron, not an expert, and I am brand new to this web site. But I am very grateful for the comments about this issue of truth vs. lies, subjectivity vs. dishonesty, and trust vs. doubt, in non-fiction books. This is a very deep issue and as complex as the human mind. The foggy gray areas lead me to wonder why our library system has just the two categories -- fiction and non-fiction? Do you think there could be other categories that might prevent people from feeling betrayed by deliberate falsehoods in non-fiction books? I do hope A Million Little Pieces is never mixed in with books about addiction, because the author ridicules support programs.I believe most people benefit from the support of others in times of darkness, and I fear some readers would be mislead by his macho go-it-alone message. Thank you again for your comments. ~KHT

Whenever backed into a corner by factual data, Moore says that he did not mean it to be accurate but rather a darkly "funny" look at what happened in Flint, Michigan. But I still find it listed as a documentary.I understand that far right and far left wing people have problems handling reality, you can read an interesting article on the issue at cal_decisions.html which will prove informative if you have not slipped too far in either direction. But considering your frothy anti-one-side-or-the-otherness, I do not hold out much hope.BTW The only difference between Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh is that they are both caucasian, err fat, err rich, err proven to lie, well it appears the only difference is which lies they tell. Ann Coulter and Bill Maher? Their sex and their politics. Partisan politics are the problem not the solution, if every member of the RNC and the DNC opened their minds tomorrow, it would be a greatest thing to ever happen to America.

Full disclosure up front; I have not read A Million Little Pieces nor do I intend to.We could spend the rest of eternity arguing where certain books and topics really belong. Two examples, I can think are authors of books that deny the holocost happened. These are every bit as "fictional" as Frey's book and may be better off with the alternative history novels in the Sci-Fi section. Then there's the million and one theories of the Kennedy assasination and what "really happened" that fateful day.Throw it in biographies and forget it. No one will care two months from now.

To be fair to Mr. Frey, he did try to market his book as fiction but it was so poorly written no publisher would pick it up. When someone floated the idea of trying to sell it as a memoir things snowballed.

I still think that changing the class is up to the indvidual library. Just because we have the series "Childhood of famous Americans" classed as fiction, doesn't mean that I think everyone else should too. Yes, it's a fictionalized biography but we all have different ways of dealing with them. Figure out what works best for your library and its users and I'll figure out what works for mine.

RE: Skating with stars:
D and E list celebrities have to make a living too, only so many direct to video roles to go around. :-) Plus, Bruce Jenner is on there... he's sort of a celebrity. Those shows are the equivalent to a digital car wreck, you know you shouldn't watch but you just can't turn away.

"Arming America" comes into this because, on closer examination of Bellesiles' claims about his research, it wasn't just the NRA that concluded he had fabricated his "evidence." The probate records he claimed to have examined _didn't exist_, in several cases were shown to have been destroyed decades before he did his "research."

Historians and researchers from all parts of the political spectrum ended up disgusted with Bellesiles, and his work is now thoroughly discredited. The NRA may have been originally motivated by the fact that they didn't like his conclusions, but in this case, regardless of their motivations, it turned out that as regards Bellesiles, they were right. This is a clear case, like Frey's book, of a work being dishonestly presented as something it's not. In fact, it's worse than Frey's, because Frey's book was labeled memoir, not serious academic research, and we KNOW there's always some degree of unreliability in memoirs.

"Roger and Me," OTOH, Moore freely and readily says, and has always said, is a polemic, not academic research, and in fact is hard to mistake for anything else. Anyone who didn't recognize in the first few frames that they were getting a certain amount of viewpoint bias probably shouldn't be allowed to go to the movies unaccompanied by an adult.

Yes it should be changed because it is a work of fiction. It probably will not be changed anytime soon because the book is in such high demand that technical services cannot get its hands on it to slap on a new label.

Look at the crap people watch on TV today, heck look at the Oprah show that is mindless pablum. When I get home from work the TV is filled with people eating bugs, dancing or skating with stars (stars of whom I have never heard) or crime scene technicians sequencing DNA in half an hour. All of this crap is fantasy, as are most of the network news shows. So it is not simply a book that needs to be reclassified, the American people need to get a grip on reality.

We are the most self absorbed, spoiled bastards on the face of the Earth (well there may be a royal family or two who can top us but as a group we excel). Why would anyone care about some young criminal who cleaned himself up. If you want to read heartwarming stories of people getting off drugs try AA's big blue book, at least those are real. Oddly, no one has checked that out in 2 years.

Lying has become pervasive in society so this idiots book simply feeds the masses someone else's alabeit fictional grief they so long for. We really don't have much to cry for in this country so we tend to live vicariously through the sorrow of others. I read a very interesting journal article a few months back about the outpouring of sorrow that occurs when someone in a highschool dies in an accident. These things happened two and three decades ago, but they didn't cause the grief to those only peripherally connected- the other students at the school - that they seem to now. The author's premise is that today we are too well off, too far removed from any of the true troubles of life that were faced by previous generations and we can't deal with it. Previously we could get angry about unemployment, ration cards, World Wars and the like, but now we can only let our feelings show at true tragedies, but since we personally are involved in so few tragedies we react when we are peripherally involved. So the highschoolers all break down when some kid they didn't even know gets hit by a bus.

Schadenfreude should have its own Dewey class.

Well, it certainly hasn't hurt circulation over here. I think since the stuff hit the fan the circs have gone up... probably by curiousity seekers trying to see what all the brouhaha is about.

The iBookWatch blog is taking bets on how long it will take for the book to fall out of the top 100 bestselling books. They are also looking at how long before it falls off their site. The track the top 10,000 bestselling books. Currently the book is sitting at #5.

I accept that there is a blurry line. Especially when it comes to personal memoirs, which are not held to the same standards as academic work, because there are often NO primary documents to refer to. Ask anyone about their life and certain things will be exaggerated or omitted. Perhaps the appeal of Frey's book is that many readers suspect this is B.S. because they've spun the same stories themselves and identify with the confabultation, perhaps even admire the extremity of it. Certainly "true" of the Eggers book, I mean ..... anyone reads three pages of that will know it's B.S. and not care too much -- even if it is in Biography.

I don't think Frey's book should be in the 300s (about drug abuse and crime), but I could accept it in biography.

There are many works of fiction that are thinly disguised attempts to get "truth" out. And all literature that has some value, fiction or not, must at least illustrate some truths about humanity or our world, or they would not be shared and studied as much for so long.
Oh, and why the segue from this to "Arming America" and "Roger And Me"? Not sure what the parallel is, or even how either work is controversial, unless you don't like the conclusions drawn by them. One was dismissed by the NRA and their proxies because some sources (missing probate records) were suspect. These were errors, and should not in retrospect have been used, but they did not invalidate the other sources or a conclusion the author has a right to come up with (and you would be free to disagree with him).
If someone had enough time, one could find fault with anyone's research and conclusions on anything, and who has the time, unless one is well paid to do so and/or has serious doubts. Peer review IS a good thing for quality control.

Please do not make this yet another "libburul buyass" issue. We buy every right wing nutball book we can and don't demand to see the footnotes up front. Let the readers make up their own mind. Nobody is demanding Anne Coulter's books be removed for similar offences, however, I would support moving them to the humor/satire section.

Also, last I checked, authors and publishers do NOT catalog books. Librarians do. You are also free at your library to ignore the advice of LC or some "consensus" on WorldCat.

Michael Moore's Roger and Me is just as fictional, but it is treated as a documentary. Perhaps we need to stop making political decisions about factual issues.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I am grateful for the time you took to explain your views on the complexity of the issue. As a patron, rather than a librarian, I am heartened that others in the library community are thinking seriously about these issues. Thanks again for your help. ~KHT

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my question. I feel better knowing that others are thinking seriously about this issue. Thanks again! ~KHT

I have heard/read things on various listservs and websites about people wondering if they should reclass Frey's book. Here at NPL, we haven't discussed it yet. (We still have 220+ holds on the title, so we couldn't get to the books to relabel them anyway.) It's a sticky thing to reclass stuff like this, where do you draw the line? Do you treat Frey's book (or books, what about his "My Friend Leonard"?) the same way Dave Egger's "A heartbreaking work of staggering genius" got treated? Or does it get treated as nonfiction because at publication that is what it was believed to be? IMO, it's up the individual libraries. We'll probably reclass it as a fiction here, but that's us. Other places might reclass it in the 800s somewhere. And still others might leave it as a biography but with a disclaimer in a summary note. It is something that needs to be addressed within the individual library, I don't think this is something that needs to be addressed on a national level. Lord knows, I regularly ignore how the publishers try to class books. Publishers have a different mission that libraries, and they rely on the authors to tell them what the book is. We have the freedom to disagree and place the books in whatever best fits our collections and users.

It's simply fraud. He should be fined all the profits he made and jailed!