I Was Duped, I Tell Ya

Last week, after defending the "essential truth" (as opposed to the literal, corresponding-with-reality truth) of James Frey's pseudo-memoir A Million Little Pieces in a call to the Larry King Show, Oprah Winfrey looked around, noticed there are still quite a few people who think lying is not a good practice for a writer of nonfiction, and reversed herself, excoriating Frey in the only episode of her show I can honestly say I'm sorry I missed. According to The New York Times, Frey's humiliating expulsion from Oprah's book club has prompted some concerns among publishers about the honor system on which they rely to vouchsafe the accuracy of their books. But since routine fact checking is neither foolproof (witness Stephen Glass) nor economically feasible, it sounds like things will remain pretty much as they are. If this episode serves any useful purpose beyond its short-term entertainment value, it will be to alert (or remind) readers that appearing between hard covers on a library shelf does not make information any more reliable than appearing in the pages of a newspaper or a magazine. In fact, depending on the periodical, the quality of its writers, and the thoroughness of its fact checking, it may deserve considerably more trust than the average nonfiction bestseller.

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  • ||

    I'm surprised more people haven't trotted out the "fake, but accurate" slogan in regards to Mr. Frey.

  • Ed||

    I don't know that he has actually been expelled from the club -- the Official Club Seal appears on the cover of everything printed to date and cannot be removed retroactively -- but what I found fascinating about the spectacle was Oprah's Ming The Merciless wardrobe choice. It freaked me out and had me quaking. Whoo, that's one evil megalomaniac!

  • ||

    To this day, I still don't know why people took their Milli Vanilli tapes back to the store after it came out that Rob and Fab weren't the voices on the album.

  • Dan T.||

    America: where the people are more likely to demand truth and accuracy from our talk-show hosts than our government.

  • R C Dean||

    the only episode of her show I can honestly say I'm sorry I missed.

    Ditto. And double-ditto after hearing she was tricked up as a dominatrix! Mrorw!

  • ||

    Just to be safe, Oprah's next Book Club selection is going to be the dictionary.

  • ||

    I heard about this on Howard Stern; and she came across as such the disapproving nanny, demanding obeiesance from the dude, and with her sycophantic audience cheering on every word. Not that the guy's not a total douche, but geez, I can't imagine enjoying a second of that display.

  • ||

    Jaybird, I'm not sure the Milli Vanilli analogy is the right one. Would you be angry if your Don Mattingly-signed baseball was really signed by...me?

  • ||

    Frey is so stupid. This is what he should have said. "Hey. I tried to sell it as a novel but no one would buy it. Doubleday said they'd buy if it was listed as a memoir. I wanted the cash so I said o.k.. How the hell could I have known 2 years later you would pick it for your book club and all this scrutiny would come down on me? I knew I would be found out but it was selling like hotcakes and I was making shit loads of money so I kept up the charade. Sorry."

  • ||

    The State of the Oprah is not good.

  • ||

    Salon had video clips of the show. It was funny watching the smug little weasel get his ass chewed by Oprah in high dudgeon.

    What doesn't get noted much in the press is that Frey, like virtually all authors, contractually warranted the veracity of his tale when he signed the book deal.

  • ||

    "Oprah?" Shouldn't that be "opera?"
    I blame State education.

  • ||

    Next on Oprah. Oprah travels back in time to give Herodotus a piece of her mind.

  • ||

    Is this a case where there is no bad publicity? How are sales of this book compared to the average sales of books Oprah chooses?

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