A Million Little Equivocations

Million Little Pieces by James Frey

I think what Frey did was wrong and probably potentially harmful to real drug addicts out there, but it wasn’t that interesting until I read that Oprah put her stamp of approval on it—“essential emotional truths” my ass.

We live in a world of political double speak, where even the big O thinks she is entitled to it.

It reminded me of the last time Oprah stopped her book club because John Franzen acted immaturely and embarrassed her. Now Frey has embarrassed her in a different way.

Caitlin put it best over IM: “Don’t pay attention to Oprah, she has to defend the choice because she already made a bad one.”

And she finished with on an old Oprah Book Club joke between us: “This is what happens when you select living authors.”


5 thoughts on “A Million Little Equivocations

  1. Maureen Dowd has a similar Op-Ed in the Times.

    Choice quote: “Despite George Washington and the cherry tree, we no longer have a society especially consecrated to truth. The culture produces an infinity of TV shows and movies depicting the importance of honesty. But they’re really talking only about the importance of being honest about your feelings. Sharing feelings is not the same thing as telling the truth.”

  2. It’s common knowledge that in a lot of memoirs, names, places, and events have to be altered to protect the identity of certain people, time lines compressed, and things changed for artistic reasons. Only 5% of James Frey’s book is even being disputed, and most of the disputed parts concern trivial things like whether he was arrested for driving drunk or arrested for driving high.

    This whole scandal reminds me of when the far right was attacking Clinton for not telling the truth about sex, and Hillary for going on TV and supporting him. Typical that the same types of people would be attacking a drug addict, just as Clinton was attacked for whether or not he did drugs too.

  3. @Tod: Since a memoir is sold as non-fiction, but something like a “based on a true story” movie is not, I will respectfully disagree with you. Nor do I feel one should judge a lie by the fact that it is contained in only 5% of the pages of a book. After all, those were the only 5% of the pages that could be easily proved to be false. Others have put this far better than me, though I can understand if you have a difference of opinion.

    In any case, I wasn’t attacking him, I was attacking those who were defending him by saying that it was a memoir and based on his “perception” of the events when there was an “essential emotional truth.” That sort of equivocation is very dangerous. Richard Bradley, in my previous comment put it this way: “Are you sure you were raped? Maybe you just have a different perspective on a sexual encounter?” I realize that sometimes we can go all Rashomon here but the truth is still the truth, no matter what version of events someone might choose to creatively interpret it.

    Indeed, as you alude to, this defense has an implication to today’s politics, that I didn’t want to delve into. Others may want to drag it into that theatre, but I prefer to think simply about the social impact of this defense.

    As for Clinton, *shrug*. I was never a fan of him, nor was I a fan of his detractors when he was impeached. From my perspective, he lied and then muddied the waters with the Frey-like, “It depends on what your definition of is is.” But then again, there was no cause for impeachment, or if there was, given the re-election rates of most congressmen, there are an awfully lot of sitting hypocrites right now.

    I did try to imply that there might be a number of drug addicts who believe that there is an “essential emotional truth” to Frey’s work of fiction. In doing so, they might take it as a prescription to recovery. However, as the latest article in the Times shows, doing so is a very bad idea. It also calls into question the validity of the “other 95%” of the book.

    I personally believe a lie presented as the truth is bad, no matter whose agenda they might serve. Defending them will come to bite you in the ass. A lot of evidence seems to back this up: Where Clinton stuck his penis and Oprah’s defense of Frey’s book are just two of them.

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