Saturday, January 28, 2006

Oprah Chops Frey into a Million Little Pieces (Fries Him in Hot Oil)

Poor old Oprah - she doesn't seems to have much luck with the living authors she features on her show, does she?

Reverberations continue to be felt after her most recent pick, James Frey, admitted that he had embellished parts of his memoir A Million Little Pieces. According to the Guardian, Frey:

.. made a second appearance on her show yesterday, and listened in silence as the occasionally tearful host accused him of "embarrassing and disappointing" her. In his memoir, Frey claimed to have spent three months in jail. When allegations first emerged that he had exaggerated his criminal record, Winfrey made a surprise call to Larry King's CNN show in support of him, in which she called the alleged fabrications "much ado about nothing". But yesterday, to the delight of her viewers, she made a sharp about-turn, telling Frey that she felt "duped", and accusing him of "betray[ing] millions of readers." Frey was met with a barrage of groans, gasps and boos when he confessed that certain facts and characters had been "altered" for inclusion in the memoir. He admitted that he had been jailed for just a few hours, rather than (as he initially claimed) 87 days, and went on to say that he had made mistakes and lied.

The big question is how much does all this really matter? Oprah's public clearly seems to think that it does.

But truth is of course entirely subjective, and all writers who use their lives as material select and shape facts to serve their purpose.

As one reader said in a New York Times forum :
It's about unreliable narrative, baby.

12 comments:

The Visitor said...

sounds like Oprah's selling herself out to her audience. cheh!

Walker said...

Indeed! I mean really. "Author mixes fact with fiction in his writing." Er...that's a tradition isn't it? "Author dupes the reader." Er...shouldn't all good writers of fiction do that?

The real story is about Oprah's honesty, principles and standards in my opinion. Doesn't she check out this stuff before telling her viewing minions to buy it? She says she lets her publisher "handle that kind of thing", but really, if she's going to personally endorse an author and make him a millionaire, she should make sure the story is straight.

Oprah feels duped. Oprah is upset. Well yeah. She's as much a product as Frey's book, and her "about turn" is no doubt more about her own marketing potential than genuine personal outrage.

q said...

poor oprah :-D

i found this book before realising it was in her book club, and will still try to read it someday.

Philip_G said...

Gee, that must've been priceless to see... as I much as I respect the poor woman... sometimes I do feel she is a bit overrated. Give me Ellen DeGeneres any day! ^_^

Btw, thanks Sharon, for your condolence message over at my blog.

bibliobibuli said...

visitor - yes, indeed

walker - i think you're right ... and i wonder if there's any memorist alive who didn't embellish and embroider and reshape their story ...

q - you will probably enjoy the book - it seems to be very popular ...

philip - welcome. just felt so sad for you, reading your blog.

Lydia Teh said...

Sharon, writers have this very handy excuse called "creative license" but stretching a few hours into 87 days is blatant lying.

Anonymous said...

i agree lydia, this is a memoir, and though some license can be given to how one felt about someone or an event, factual inaccuracies are really not on! particularly because the extent of his 'exaggerated' experiences is what apparently made the book stand out from the slush of other agony memoirs. i think that is why people felt duped. and why is oprah supposed to check the facts walker? isn't that the job of james frey's publisher? oprah and the readers have every reason to feel the way they do.

bibliobibuli said...

some thoughts:

... let's say for sake of argument that you'd written a novel based on your life ... and a big flash publisher said they'd print it ... and you had your ticket to fame and fortune almost in your hands ... and then the publsiher said 'but you have to call this a memoir' ... what would you have done? frey did submit this first of all as a novel ...

... then is memoir the same thing as an autobiography? can memoir be more flexible with the truth (whatever we may mean by 'truth'?) see quote I posted at the end of this piece ...

other famous memoirists have been creative with the truth ... frank and malachy mccourts accounts of their childhood, i seem to remember differed substantially at times (though i didn't read malachy's) ... biswell's biography of anthony burgess points to many occasions where the author shaped events his way ... yet no-one's bothered to shout liar liar! at burgess ..

... my own response to all this is to have a little chuckle about the blurred distinction between fiction and non-fiction ... in the end all writing is artifice ...

Walker said...

> why is oprah supposed to check the facts walker?

I can't believe you need even ask that question about somebody with such power over the authors she recommends and the responsibility she has to her audience.

> isn't that the job of james frey's publisher? oprah and the readers have every reason to feel the way they do.

Did you know that James Frey initially submitted the work as fiction, but his publisher told him the only way to get it published was by marketing it as a memoir?

To suggest Oprah isn't aware of such cynical marketing methods when she's making deals with publishers to endorse books that only her researchers have read (knowing full well that she can turn an author into a millionaire overnight) is very naive in my opinion. Viewers need to wise up to the fact that celebrity endorsement means nothing, and that the very process of marketing is about selling people things they don't want or need.

So, Oprah is more full of **** than Frey? Surprise, surprise.

The Visitor said...

i knew the Oprah Book Club was full of BS after i read A Map Of The World. i detest that book and i gave it away. (i don't throw away books.)

bloody shite writing, that piece of crap. and it got endorsed by Oprah.

sorry if i sound emotional about it. i really felt i wasted my money.

Walker said...

If that sounded emotional, I must sound hysterical. If so, it was unintentional. ;-) I know somebody with a copy of A Million Little Pieces so I'll check it out...but I'd never normally buy anything based on an Oprah endorsement alone. Judy and Richard (UK) usually strike a good balance between book discussion and recommendations, but they're a bit too competitive when it comes to exclusive interviews for my liking.

bibliobibuli said...

walker, visitor - i thank her for all eternity for schlink's the reader ... and i'd never have read the corrections if there hadn't been all that hoohah ...

oprah and richard and judy - love that they are promoting books at all and getting people to read ... but trouble is they have too much power in their hands ...

we were going to start a richard and judy type show up here but sadly it seems to have fallen through for lack of funds ...