Fiction, Nonfiction, What's the Dif?

In response to a Smoking Gun exposé showing that important parts of James Frey's best-selling "memoir" of addiction and redemption, A Million Little Pieces, were fabricated or heavily embellished, his publishers say, basically, so what? Yesterday Doubleday and Anchor Books, which published the hardcover and paperback editions, respectively, issued this statement:

Memoir is a personal history whose aim is to illuminate, by way of example, events and issues of broader social consequence. 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. Recent accusations against him notwithstanding, the power of the overall reading experience is such that the book remains a deeply inspiring and redemptive story for millions of readers.

In other words, whether or not Frey's account is literally true, it reflects a deeper truth. Which is fine, except that sort of book is usually called a "novel," as opposed to a "memoir," a term that indicates the events described by the author actually, you know, happened. In this case, the book's main selling point was its truth, as opposed to its literary qualities. After Frey sold the manuscript to Doubleday, he told The New York Times last month, "we were in discussions...as to whether to publish it as fiction or as nonfiction." But "when Doubleday decided to publish the book as nonfiction, Mr. Frey said, he did not have to change anything. 'It was written exactly as it was published,' he said."

Although "Mr. Frey asserted that he had presented his publishers with extensive written records of his time in an addiction-treatment center, as well as medical records and other documentation," writes Edward Wyatt in today's Times, Doubleday and Anchor's "statement that the book is supposed to be 'true to his recollections' implies that the publishers did little or no checking." Wyatt points to "the gap that has emerged between book publishing and the rest of the media, which in recent years have been under increasing scrutiny over the accuracy of their reporting." (Yes, he mentions the Jayson Blair scandal at his own paper.)

I'm not sure there's anything new about this gap. It's certainly not a development that has occurred just "in recent years." Based on my experience as a reader and an author (with two different publishers, both reputable), I'd say nonfiction publishers routinely do "little or no checking," beyond copyediting and vetting for libel. To judge from his own account and the reviews I've read (I haven't read the book), Frey did not get much of the former. As for the latter, it sounds like Frey avoided potential lawsuits by disguising people's identities (although that precaution is not noted in the book) and/or describing people who are, by his account, no longer with us (assuming they existed to begin with).

Avoiding libel lawsuits and telling the truth are, in any case, by no means the same thing. That's especially true when, as in this case, the fabrications mostly paint the author, as opposed to a possibly litigious acquaintance, in a negative light. But even with run-of-the-mill nonfiction, readers should not assume that any asserted facts have been independently verified unless they are potentially libelous. For the most part, they have to trust the author, which is what book publishers generally seem to do. After publication, of course, accuracy can be checked against other sources, and The Smoking Gun has done an admirable, dogged job of that with Frey's book. But as the article notes, with memoirs there's only so much that can be checked, and the rest you have to take on faith.

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  • ||

    I was always amused at stuff like Communion sitting in the nonfiction section, myself. Jacob's point is so very true.

  • ||

    Sheeple have a deep-seated need to worship personalities. People were tatooing themselves with terms from Frey's book, for Christ's sake.

    Losers.

  • ||

    My wife got it a couple months ago. She was horrified by the dental scene in the book, where he gets dental surgery without painkillers because of his addiction. It struck me as improbable, yet at the same time familiar.

    We talked to my wife's brother, who's a dentist. He has never heard of any ethical dentist performing a procedure without local anesthesia, regardless of whether the patient is a current or recovering drug user.

    Yet the story sounds familiar to me. I'm pretty sure that at some point in my life (maybe high school health class?) I heard that the dentist will do procedures without painkiller if you've used illegal drugs recently. It sounds ridiculous, but I know I've heard it.

    Is this maybe a propaganda story or urban legend that Frey passed on in his book? Has anybody else heard of such a thing? I'm sure the story is false, but I'm also sure I've heard it somewhere before. In which case his "memoir" is not only false, it's also not very original

  • ||

    thoreau,
    It sounds like it has all the makings of an urban legend to me. Not that it's anything new for people to pass off urban legends as fact in books. Morgan Spurlock did the same thing in his book.

  • Timothy||

    *cough* Arming America *cough*

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    Thoreau,
    At the risk of losing my heretofore carefulyy cultivated blog-wide hipness quotient, I can remember an episode of "", in the late 80's. The sitcom that starred Joey Lawrence and a loveable, if unattractive sister(about whom the show title referred, it cant remember it). Anyway, there was a third sibling in the family, reformed drug abuser, who got dental surgery without anesthetic. Aside, in this same episode, said addict reminisced about riding rollercoasters on LSD, giving someone I know a helluva idea that summer.

    The shows name, uh, started with a B I think.

  • ||

    Thoreau,
    At the risk of losing some points off my heretofore carefully cultivated blog-wide hipness quotient, I can remember an episode of "", in the late 80's. The sitcom that starred Joey Lawrence and a loveable, if unattractive sister(about whom the show title referred, it cant remember it). Anyway, there was a third sibling in the family, reformed drug abuser, who got dental surgery without anesthetic. Aside, in this same episode, said addict reminisced about riding rollercoasters on LSD, giving someone I know a helluva idea that summer.

    The shows name, uh, started with a B I think.

  • ||

    *cough* Rigoberta Menchu *cough*

    Its for the movement man. It doesn't matter if its not true. It ought to be true and that is all that matters.

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    thoreau,

    About 10 years ago an orthodontist ground my teeth down to "even them out" without using anesthesia, but that wasn't because of any drug use on my part. He claimed that anesthesia was unnecessary because the grinder wasn't penetrating the tooth. Whether it did or didn't, I don't know, but it certainly hurt like hell. Also, apparently up into the 1960s it was not uncommon to perform dental procedures on children without anesthesia because of the belief that their ability to perceive pain was less than adults and that their screaming and thrashing was just the result of them being uncooperative.

  • ||

    Matt, The show you're thinking of was "Blossom"

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    SR -

    But is it safe?

  • ||

    I wonder how long it will be until Doubleday and Anchor books publish a tome whining about how people are too mistrusting of books published by Doubleday and Anchor?

  • Timothy||

    Matt: You're thinking of "Blossom". The actress who played the main character never got much more attractive, but the gal who played her best friend "Six" turned out pretty cute.

  • ||

    *cough* Rigoberta Menchu *cough*

    And based on that example, it can be suggested that the truthfulness of a memoir is in inverse proportion to its likelyhood of winning major awards.

  • ||

    This reminds me of Calvin's fictional autobiography, where everything is the same except he has a flamethrower.

  • Timothy||

    About 10 years ago an orthodontist ground my teeth down to "even them out" without using anesthesia, but that wasn't because of any drug use on my part. He claimed that anesthesia was unnecessary because the grinder wasn't penetrating the tooth.

    My orthodontist did the same thing about the same time...only his excuse was that he didn't have nitrous or an injectable local because he didn't have an anesthesiologist.

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    John DeWitt,

    Only if that memior says the right things, meaning it soothes the guilty consciences and confirms the Marxists beliefs of the uppercrust liberal critics who give such awards.

  • Captain Holly||

    Not to brag, but I don't ever take novocaine when I have fillings, and my dentist is cool with that.

    It's not because I'm a he-man or a recovering addict, it's because I had a real bad reaction to novocaine when I was a kid (face swelled up like a balloon), so I've avoided it ever since. In all, I've had about 15 fillings and one chipped tooth repaired since then, all of them performed without drugs.

    As for the pain, there's only about 5-10 seconds of real discomfort. If you can grit your teeth (figuratively) and make it through that part, the rest isn't bad at all. In addition, my dentist doesn't charge me as much because he doesn't have to use any drugs.

    However, in the spirit of the original post, and lest I be accused of exaggerating, I have never had a root canal or tooth extraction, so I'm not sure if I'd be able to go drug-free for those.

  • ||

    I went to the college where an sociology professor debunked Rigoberta Menchu, and some teachers in other disciplines at that college still have the cojones to teach it like nothing happened.

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    Randoph -

    Damn.

  • ||

    I went to the college where the sociology professor who debunked Rigoberta Menchu teaches, and some teachers in other disciplines at that college still have the cojones to teach it like nothing happened.

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    In the past few years, novocaine does nothing for me. My dentist never cared... he figured it would kick in eventually.

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    There's a gremlin on the wing of the server! Why won't anyone look!

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    Captain Holly,

    If you are allergic to novacain, it makes sense to maybe tough it out for minor dental work. I would be curious to hear exactly what novacain is and whether it is an opitate based drug. The crux of the claim seems to be that Frey couldn't take the novacain because he was a drug addict and it would cause him to start using again. How exactly is that supposed to work? Novacain doesn't make you high, it just nums your mouth. What about that experience is going to make you want to take drugs again? People relaspse into drugs because of their psychological need to get high. True, that when they first quit the body may go through withdrawl and have a physical need for the drugs, but that ends eventually and the reformed addict is left with his psychological need to get high, which is sometimes worse than the physical need. I don't see how having your mouth numbed is going to rekindle the psychological need to get high and cause Frey to go out and use drugs again. Further, even if he had a physical need for drugs and novocain is opium based, the use of the drug would just satisfy that need and make easier to stay clean. I doubt that even this is true since I have never heard that visiting a dentist will make you test positive for opiates and therefore doubt seriously that novacain is even opiate based.

    This is a high school urban myth that this fraud put into his book and a bunch of dumb ass literary people believed.

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    The bad thing with regards to Frey's book is that it is presented as utterly true and as such, it is an inspiration to those who want to believe one can overcome's addictions w/out the need for 12 step programs, prescription drugs, psychiatry, etc.

    But since the most important parts of his story are completely fictional, he is betraying those who look to him as an inspiration. He isn't living proof you can achieve what he claims to have achieved. He is more like a confidence man.

    Also the prose is pretty awful, if it was presented as fiction I doubt it would have been published.

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    In all, I've had about 15 fillings and one chipped tooth repaired since then, all of them performed without drugs.

    Fifteen fillings? What the fuck do you eat, rocks and battery acid?

    As for the pain, there's only about 5-10 seconds of real discomfort.

    Having gone through a filling in a molar without adequate painkiller, I can attest that this is absolutely false, allowing of course for various people's pain threshholds.

  • Captain Holly||

    John:

    Novocaine is not an opiate. Opiates act on specific receptors in the central nervous system, novocaine merely blocks transmission of nerve impulses.

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    See, this is another reason I'm glad I opted for general anesthetic instead of just local when I had all my wisdom teeth out...

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    Captain Holly,

    Since novocaine is not an opiate, it makes no sense that a former drug addict could not take it. Frey was making the whole thing up.

  • Captain Holly||

    Fifteen fillings? What the fuck do you eat, rocks and battery acid?

    Considering I'm in my mid-40's, that averages out to about one filling every two years. Which is, well, about average for adults my age. YMMV.

    Having gone through a filling in a molar without adequate painkiller, I can attest that this is absolutely false, allowing of course for various people's pain threshholds.

    The last part of that sentence is the key.

    It also depends on how deep the cavity is.

    Once again, Your Mileage May Vary.

  • ||

    John, most of the numbing agents used are similar to cocaine - novocaine, lidocaine, and even actual cocaine is used in some cases. I can totally understand how these could trigger a cocaine addict.

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    Obryzan,

    How? You don't get the high from them. Is it going to trigger a physical need for the drug? Further, just because it is like cocaine doesn't mean that it is cocaine or will have all of the effects of cocaine. I want to hear what a pharmocologist has to say about this. I am very skeptical, especially considering the fact that Frey is a known liar anyway.

  • ||

    I'm not saying Frey isn't completely lying. But you can get an effect from them. Certainly not as full blown as snorting lines of coke, but the relationship to cocaine would be similar to the relationship between opium and heroin - vastly different effects, but still same family.

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    Considering I'm in my mid-40's, that averages out to about one filling every two years. Which is, well, about average for adults my age. YMMV.

    I'm 36, and I've had four fillings in my entire life. And I don't think I'm that far in the left tail, nor am I some sort of health-food nut or dental-care maniac. In my experience, and among the people with whose dental care I'm acquainted, one every two years is amazingly high.

  • Rich Ard||

  • Captain Holly||

    Phil:

    "One in every two years" is an average -- 15 fillings over 30-plus years. In reality, most of my fillings occurred in bunches; first after I got my braces off, and then after my wisdom teeth came in. In the 20-odd years since then, I've only had about 3-4 fillings; in fact, I can't remember the last time I had one.

    Allowing for variation, 16 fillings over a 40+ year lifespan is not that unusual. In fact, I'd daresay that's pretty close to the center of the bell curve.

  • ||

    About the tooth fillings--genetics plays a part in it--my father had miserable teeth, I do as well. I have a lot more than 15 filling and a bunch of root canals. Count yourself lucky that you don't need dental work.

    And my mouth is numb before a drill comes near it.

  • Captain Holly||

    Phil:

    The statement "one filling every two years" is an average -- about 15 fillings over a 30-plus year period. I'm not really getting one filling every other year, which is why I included the standard internet disclaimer "YMMV" which stands for "your mileage may vary".

    Actually, most of my cavities came in clusters before I was 21; first after I got my braces off, then after my wisdom teeth came in. Since then, I've had only 3-4. I can't even remember when I had the last one filled.

    Really, 16 cavities over a 43-year lifespan is not that unusual for people from my generation. In fact, I'd daresay I'm in the middle of the bell curve for Baby Boomers.

    The fact those younger than me haven't had as many is probably due to 1) you haven't lived as long and 2) there's been a tremendous improvement in dental hygiene and fluoridation since when I was a kid.

    But to prevent further hijacking of this thread (just imagine what we could say about mandatory fluoridation), that's all I will say on the subject.

  • Captain Holly||

    Apologies for the double postings, network problems.

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    John, most of the numbing agents used are similar to cocaine - novocaine, lidocaine, and even actual cocaine is used in some cases. I can totally understand how these could trigger a cocaine addict.

    Look, I don't claim to be an expert on the pharmacology of dental pain relievers, but my brother-in-law has been practicing dentisty for a long time, and he's never heard anything about not giving painkillers to drug addicts. He went to dental school, he goes to continuing education seminars, yadda yadda. I'm pretty sure that at some point in his career he's had a recovering addict in his office. So far no ill effects.

    What he does have a problem with is people who fake pain in their teeth to get codein and vicodin prescriptions.

    Now, my brother-in-law could be wrong, maybe there are reasons why drug addicts shouldn't be treated with novocaine. But if there are, they aren't well communicated to the dental community. And it's not like he's unaware of drug addiction issues. Like I said, he's had to deal with people who fake pain to get drugs.

    Also, my mother is an ER nurse, they get TONS of addicts come in, and she's never heard of local anesthetics causing problems for addicts or recovering addicts. And she routinely sees patients who need a local painkiller while a wound is sutured.

    So, on the one side we have two very experienced health professionals who are used to dealing with drug addicts and regularly attend continuing education seminars. On the other side we have an author who's been caught lying. I know which side I'm taking.

    Anyway, has anybody else heard this urban legend?

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    THOR(eau) =

    Yes, i once had wisdom teeth removed without painkillers. I don?t recommend it.

    It was the early 90s, I was ~16, and my recently divorced parents were suddenly discovering that their medical coverage no longer applied to our now fragmented family. Dad (ever the frugal one) signed us up for a newly emerging HMO plan (which was a real novel thing at the time), and the ?dental? aspect of it was kind of strange. You couldn?t go to ANY independent dentists. They had no real dentists ?in plan? in the entire tri-state area. So what they did was they set up a ?dental clinic? where you could drive to, and get ?first come first served, pay at the door? service. I have later described it to people as ?the Barbizon School of Dentistry?.

    I had been X rayed on previous occasion and the ~22yr old Russian dentist told me 2 wisdom teeth were impacted. He told us the fee for the procedure. I came back, dad dropped me off with a check for the fee, and when I was in the chair, the guy asked me, ?what kind of painkillers do you want?, and I said, ?all of em!? and he said, ?you know they are extra to the procedure fee?? I didn?t have any money on me. I had a check (already written) in my wallet. I explained this to the guy the situation, and he shrugged, and proceeded to rip 2 teeth out of my head with pliers. I didn?t/couldn?t scream because the pain makes you go blind and your ears ring and you feel electrical shocks up and down your spine. You don?t *hear* the creaking whine of bone being ripped from other bone so much as feel it from your hair to your toes. Its like that nails on chalkboard effect, only you are the nail. The absolute worst moment was the brief interlude in between the first and second tooth. You finally had time to appreciate the throbbing tissue pain (as opposed to the blinding weird high-frequency sensation of bones being pulled out of you) as well as realize there was another tooth to go. Tooth #2 split in half during extraction (apparently this is common) and sliced a chunk of gums open. Blood was pouring out of my mouth (I didnt notice, staring into a light). The dentist said, 'whoops' in the most offhand way.

    Afterwards I experienced what I?ve later learned is ?shock?. I was shivering badly and couldn?t think straight. My body temperature dropped, and I was having strange spurts of weeping and wanting to burst out laughing but never quite getting there. Like hiccups that almost happen. Very weird. This is what I was like when he picked me up.

    I?ve never read that book. Why the hell did he not want painkillers? Drug problem? Oh, come on. Novacaine?? Laughing gas? No one?s ever gotten back on heroin because they got a taste of the cain. He?d be more likely to relapse to try and deal with the fucking pain over the next 5 days or so.

    JG

  • ||

    thoreau-I can't speak for the validity of the story, but having had many family members attend faulities similar to the one he discribes I do know that at some of the more serious drug-treatment centers they take use of substances very seriously, even to the point that they're unwilling to give out even simple asprin to patients. That sort of dental surgery does seem rather extreme, but some of those faculities can be pretty hard on people.

    I also know it didn't ping my mother's BS detector, and she spent quite a bit of time as a drug councilor as part of her ministering duties when she worked for the church. Although the fact that he could put this to rest quite easily by releasing the medical records, but apparently hasn't does make me somewhat suspiscious.

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    Jesus fucking Christ, JG. That's absolutely one of the worst things I've ever heard.

    I've only had one cavity my whole life. The dentist told me he didn't need to use any anesthetics. I was like "fuck you", but he told me the cavity was so insignificant, he really didn't need it. The procedure took about half a minute. No pain.

    I have had many teeth pulled, however, and I got dry socket after my wisdom teeth were pulled. The othodontist would jam a huge pair of tweezers into the hole - that fucking hurt. He would ask me if it hurt, and I was like "what do you think?"

    But mouth pain is weird, it's not like other pain...it almost feels good. But not really.

  • ||

    What Lowdog said. Just reading that made me pale.

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    I've had drilling without anesthesia too. The last filling I got, I was so uncomfortable with the whole anesthesia thing that I elected to do without any. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. I'm not going to say it was fun, because it wasn't, but you're in a little pain for a couple minutes, then it's over. With the novocaine, OTOH, first they jab a big-ass needle in your gum, then they drill you, which still hurts, and then your mouth doesn't work right the whole rest of the day. No thanks.


    I've also had a few baby teeth pulled because they'd fused to the jawbone, which is not good. I'm pretty sure I had anesthesia for that (it was a long time ago) although it still doesn't do anything for the mental discomfort of hearing bone go *CRACK* inside your head.

  • Stephen Macklin||

    Wow.

    I guess if this thread hadn't wandered off into tales of dental woe I probably wouldn't be the first one to label Frey's book "Fake but Accurate."

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    Oh, and - lowdog: No, not really. Not even "almost".

    The worst pain I've experienced wasn't dental, though. I think I have a pinched nerve or something in my neck, because once in a rare while, if I throw my head back, like if I'm laughing, it sets it off. It is like fire exploding from the base of my skull at the right hand side and spreading across the entire side of my head as well as forward into my eye. It is literally blinding and paralyzing, and it takes a minute or so to fade. Fortunately it only happens once a year or so.

  • ||

    The worst pain of my entire life was inflammation of my iris. I'd rather be punched repeatedly in the balls while suffering a migraine headache and having dental work.

    I'm willing to believe that shallow cavities can be filled with minimal pain for people with really good pain tolerance. But anything deep? Hell no. You need the drugs in that case.

    And if the dentist knows what he's doing, the needle doesn't hurt at all. Of course, that's a big IF.

  • ||

    yeah Stephen, i think that's funny... (the off topic decent into Marathon Man stories) I didnt mean to contribute so much (i hadnt read below the original query at the beginning)

    i actually was going to ask H&R today if they'd comment on the recent James Fray (and the even weirder JT LeRoy) 'fact or fiction' scandals... I decided not to since i'd never read the book, and didnt know exactly what the libertarian angle was. I was pleased to see it covered here and was hoping to talk to people about the issue, and got distracted by the opportunity to tell one of my few real horror-stories.

    Anyway, one reason i find this topic so interesting is because this same scenario happened to one of my close friends, a person i admire tremendously, and there was a big media flap over the whole thing that really missed the real point.

    Let's see if i can find something - here:

    http://archives.cnn.com/2000/US/12/05/newyorker.apology.ap/

    That pretty much sums the basic facts up.

    The real reason behind the new yorker 'apology' was that the company he infiltrated had filed a lawsuit against the magazine for basically paying my friend for having committed a crime (albeit an amusing and harmless one)

    His mom had worked briefly in a different office of the firm - she had nothing to do with him sneaking in. Im not sure it had anything to do with why he chose the place he did.

    The massage thing happened at the company, but rodney couldnt be there at the time. He wanted to include it, so inserted himself into that real event. This is 'deception'? in my view, the piece isnt journalism, its an essay, and it should be taken as what it is.

    The fact that these trivial details were being used to basically throw the 'stephen glass' thing at a *comedy writer* is evidence enough that something was fishy. Remnick, the cock, went as far as to do a special interview with the NY Observer to badmouth rodney some more basically in an effort to make themselves appear ethically above the idea of ever engaging in something so 'editorially dishonest'.

    anyway, it was no damage to his career in many respects. As we said over drinks shortly after the thing was reaching fever pitch, 'PR is PR, dude'. He published his first book last spring, and its done really well.

    http://www.bookslut.com/nonfiction/2005_07_005948.php

    And notice he did it with pretty same basic approach to the storytelling: sneaking into an environment to 'see what it was about', then crafting the experience into a highly imaginative and entertaining story.

    I'd be upset if a writer trying to do something like this didnt alter *some* facts when telling a story about their life experiences in order to make it more pungent and compelling, heightening the translation of the experience for the reader. You're asking people to see the world the way you saw it at a given moment. It's not an easy job. Doing it well requires art. Maybe the truth of an experience can be translated with good art faster then with facts, at certain times.

    Like, for instance Egger's memoir of his parents death. If the episodes of his life were not precisely as he described, would it matter? Memory isnt all home-movies. Its got a lot of myth and imagination imbedded in the process. Memory eventually becomes a story when you try and share it with people. The kernal of an experience to a person is often crystalized how they later reimagine it, not in exactly how it happened.

    like, when my old southern grandpa told stories, he'd often mention having caught a fish that was 'this big' (showing space between hands).

    that fish had been growing in his mind for about 50 years :) But did the story really ever change? It just got better to listen to.

  • ||

    Holy shit, sorry for the triple posts! I think something went wrong with a spastic mouse click or something.

    JG

  • ||

    "his version of events was true to his recollections. "

    That's essentially what Robert Reich said when Jonathan Rauch exposed all (OK, some) of the lies in his memoir of his years as Labor Secretary.

  • ||

    I haven't read the book and have no strong feelings about Frey. But what's the big deal? Why does there need to be a sharp line between fiction & nonfiction? Hunter S. Thompson probably embellished a bit in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", but that doesn't diminish its literary value.

  • Jim Treacher||

    "Like, for instance Egger's memoir of his parents death. If the episodes of his life were not precisely as he described, would it matter?"

    Yes, if they were actually still alive. Which would be on a par with what Frey's done.

  • ||

    I'm willing to believe that shallow cavities can be filled with minimal pain for people with really good pain tolerance. But anything deep? Hell no. You need the drugs in that case.

    True, but there are other options than novocaine. For something like a third molar extraction, you can go to an oral surgeon rather than a general dentist, and they can put you under instead of just shooting you full of novocaine. Obviously there are drugs used to knock you out, but they are different.

  • ||

    Jim Treacher =

    I read the times piece about him, (here
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/12/books/12frey.html)
    ...but not the smoking gun expose... so i'm not clear on the actual degree of licence he took. Is this a matter of the fish being bigger then it really was, or as you put it, no fish at all? (i.e. no basis for the story in the first place). Was he blowing lines and laughing over his typewriter?(quit drugs? Me? Har har!)

    Oprah seems to say he's O-Kay, so why are we all so upset? :) Why do you all hate Oprah?

    JG

  • ||

    Hunter S. Thompson probably embellished a bit in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", but that doesn't diminish its literary value.

    Embellishment is different from an outright lie. If ten years ago I had a conversation about how to get and use certain drugs, and I'm writing about that conversation now I'll probably have to embellish it a bit--I can't remember the exact words used, so what I'll actually write is a paraphrase. But that's different from me inventing said conversation outright.

    The guy didn't embellish the truth--he just made stuff up. I wish his publishing company would sue him for fraud.

  • ||

    My wife tells me that he originally tried to get it published as fiction. Publishing houses weren't interested.

  • ||

    My wife tells me that he originally tried to get it published as fiction. Publishing houses weren't interested.

    I'm not surprised. Fiction requires higher standards than non-fiction, in a way. For example: Anne Frank's diary would have been a pretty lousy piece of fiction (no plot to speak of, no mention of many huge issues going on at the time, and so forth); but none of this matters because it was the real diary of a real teenaged girl who actually did have such experiences.

  • ||

    The guy didn't embellish the truth--he just made stuff up. I wish his publishing company would sue him for fraud.

    Agreed. Although I would settle for Oprah publicly denouncing him as a liar, which would destroy his career just as well.

  • ||

    Or to put it another way: if any author tries to write the fictional diary of a Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis, that fake diary had better be a hell of a lot better than Anne Frank's real one.

  • ||

    Or to put it another way: if any author tries to write the fictional diary of a Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis, that fake diary had better be a hell of a lot better than Anne Frank's real one.

    Maybe more like "Die Hard", where Anne fights back against the Nazis maybe?

    Maybe Dakota Fanning could play her in the movie.

  • ||

    Oops, way too many maybes

  • ||

    Gilmore:

    In the book he was in prison for more than 3 months, met lots of memorable people, etc.

    In reality he was once in a jail cell for a couple hours waiting for someone to post bond.

    So, "no fish at all", imho.

    Oprah is just trying to keep from appearing more foolish . . .

  • ||

    The guy's lawyers are suing The Smoking Gun for implyihng that he might be dishonest:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/jamesfrey/freysides/singerfrey1.html

  • Rick H.||

    I'm not saying Frey isn't completely lying. But you can get an effect from them. Certainly not as full blown as snorting lines of coke, but the relationship to cocaine would be similar to the relationship between opium and heroin - vastly different effects, but still same family.

    The "effect" is a numbing effect, that's all. Coke, heroin and opium will get you high; that's why addicts are sensitive to them. (You can draw your own conclusions as to why I know this.) Application of ice would be just as likely to trigger a craving as novocaine is.

    Reading the commentary on this and other boards, it's becoming clearer to me how this blowhard's junior-high scribbling (the Go Ask Alice of its time) got touted as a bible of drug addiction.

  • Rick H.||

    Jennifer:

    They may or may not be suing. That letter was a threat to bring suit, which they sent before the article came out.

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