Friday, January 27, 2006

Don't Piss Off Oprah

Yesterday I just happened to catch the Oprah show everybody is talking about where author James Frey confessed that he made up details in his memoir "A Million Little Pieces." It was brutal. I felt really sorry for the guy. I never read the book (of course I want to now) but the tiny little details Oprah was debating him on seemed ridiculous to me. The exact way someone committed suicide? If he changed the way it was done isn't he only protecting the person who actually did it? Whether or not he had noviccaine during a dental procedure? Is he really wanted in three states? Come on. From what I can tell the facts he changed hurt no one but himself and his credentials. I think Oprah is in a tissy because she backed this book 100% without taking into account that this is a memoir, not an autobiography, not "based on a true story", but a memoir. Maybe she doesn't know the definition of a memoir.

Webster's defines a memoir as "a narrative composed from personal experience." A story based on your memories. Not based on fact, but based on your memories.

The funny thing is I probably would have been on Oprah's side if I hadn't been following a similar story. Nicole Lea Helget is receiving critical praise for her memoirs about growing up on a farm in Minnesota. The problem is that her family claims none of it happened (nor could have happened) and they've got all kinds of proof to back them up. She has also made accusations that are considered slanderous to most of the people in the book. (Her family has started lawsuits but can't financially go through with them.) The thing that bothers me a lot more about this case and not Frey's is that Helget's book was published by the Minnesota Historical Society. A historical society is publishing fictional memoirs? That's not cool, especially coming from a historical society.

So what's worse? Calling your book a memoir and changing some facts or calling your book a memoir and making up entire stories that no one else can recall? And wouldn't a historical society want to lean towards the historical truth rather than stories floating around in your memory?

Apparently Frey placed himself in a train accident (he wasn't there) where two teenage girls were killed. I think one of the mother's of the girls summed it up best on the Smoking Gun- "I figured he was taking license...he's a writer, you know, they don't tell everything that's factual and true."

Do you think this story would have been as big if Oprah hadn't made such a huge deal about it? Probably not since it was published two years before it made Oprah's book club.

More on Oprah and her book club later.........


Blogger Andre said...

This is such a cool issue. We've been talking about this dude in class a lot lately.

A couple years ago, a guy was writing a bio of Ronald Reagan. In his discussions with Nacy, she tried to get him to overlook the fact that Ron had been married once before. he didn't go for it though, but he did write himself into the book as though he witnessed the things he was writing about.

Party tonight!!! You coming?

Sat Jan 28, 10:41:00 AM EST  

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