I have been trying to avoid putting my two cents in on the James Frey Million Little Pieces, Oprah book club debacle, but it won't die! It keeps showing up in every paper I read, on every news show - enough! So what should I do? Write about it on my blog, of course.
My first thought upon hearing about his memoir/fiction piece was, the mighty have fallen. And the mighty in this case is Oprah. She has this wonderful book club - I applaud anyone who can get people to read - and she picks this hack of a writer, promotes the hell out of him, and then defends him on Larry King. I was quite shocked, to be honest. I would have verbally beaten him at that point. I would have felt completely duped and humiliated myself. There would have been no "well, it's the message really." No, not really.
I have read many works of fiction that have moved me. The message left an impact on me in some way. Most fiction is based on something close to reality anyway - ideas have to come from somewhere. I have also read non-fiction that has moved me. But it moves me in a different way usually because I can relate to the person or situation or I applaud the fortitude. I like to know the difference between fiction and non-fiction. It helps me formulate my opinions and feelings. Is the story based on actual events so I have a better understanding or is it taking me away from where I am at that moment?
What happened after the Larry King phone call, I can only surmise, was a meeting of those in the know at Harpo Productions who had some idea about branding, loyalty and PR. In fact, this is an example I will certainly use in any class I teach related to PR/crisis communication.
That Oprah and her people didn't have a plan in place in case something like this happened is understandable, I guess. But that she would defend him without thinking the matter through, is not understandable - it's foolish.
I picture her PR team saying, "What the Jesus are you doing? Have you lost your freaking mind?" Then sitting down and saying, "OK, damage is done, how do we repair it?" And repair it they did.
That's when we get an entire show that appeals to everyone who isn't mighty and who relishes in seeing people with more money, power and influence fall. I have to admit, I take a certain guilty pleasure in seeing people who have made money and achieved notority like James Frey fall. I love to see people get their comeuppance.
Before you think me some sort of evil, hateful person, remember this - HE LIED! What I find quite amusing is that he originally pushed the book as fiction. Then the publisher thought, hmmm, you may sell more if it's a memoir.
Great. Just give it whatever label with make you the most money. Truth be damned!
What would I have done had I been James Frey? I don't think I could misrepresent myself - no matter the size of the carrot dangling in front of my face. Because karma is a funny thing. It always comes back - threefold. And then what? As an author, you have a responsibility to your public. It's funny, they take what you say as truth.
Let this be a lesson to others. The truth does matter and should prevail. Ethics and morals are not entirely dead. And I'm glad to hear that.
But you also have to ask youself - how much humiliation would you suffer for a grand paycheck? If Frey plays his cards right, he shouldn't have to work again. He doesn't need to do a damn thing to live comfortably. A smart, evil person would say, "Hey, you people are dumb, I'm rich, who cares?". Karma didn't catch him soon enough.
Or did it? Personally, I don't think he's bright enough to think ahead. I see him more as a pawn. Pawns don't usually win the game.
I am sure we haven't heard the last of this issue. 15 minutes of fame gets longer and longer all the time.