[lit-ideas] fiction or non

  • From: Paul Stone <pas@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 14:03:30 -0500

My apologies to Carol if my initial response to this thread seemed a little pissy. It's just that I had just begun the Frey book and all of a sudden it was obvious that there was some contention brewing.

In just two days, he's all over the news and talkshows. I gather he did Larry King last night. So... it's unavoidable now to learn something about the controversy. A friend sent me a link to www.thesmokinggun.com who have apparently been investigating Mr. Frey for the past three months. They were the ones to "uncover" him. The interesting thing is that, as of now, I'm on page 94 out of 432 and EVERYTHING that the smoking gun refers to in their write-up is ALREADY known by me. That is, I'm wondering if any of these strenuous objectors have even read the whole book.

With that, let me take a stab at resuming a very interesting discussion initiated by Carol and sort of quashed by my response.

CK: Offered up for discussion, in light of our recent experience with a
fictional character participating in this list, and members' planned

1. Who's who, and does it matter as long as the book is entertaining?

Not if all the names are changed. Anyone who comes out of the woodwork and says "that's me" is implicating themselves not being 'impugned' by the author. This book is not remotely 'entertaining' and that's probably why, if it is fiction, it wouldn't sell as fiction. As a true story, it's certainly interesting and a real page-turner. If I had unlimited time (you know, away from work and sleep and stuff) I would probably read it in a single sitting. Does it matter to me whether it's true? Not really.

2. What's what, and does it matter as long as the book is entertaining?

Has anyone ever read Philip Roth's "Operation: Shylock"? Which classification is that? How do you know?

3. Is disguising autobiography as fiction less irritating (or wrong) than telling a fiction and calling it autobiography?

Is it wrong for someone to write "the funniest book of the year" on the cover of [Margaret Atwood's Robber Bride] a novel which I read without so much as smiling?

The first quote on my copy of Frey's book says "James Frey's staggering recovery memoir could well be seen as the final word on the topic"... the second says "the most lacerating tale of drug addiction since William S. Burroughs' Junky." And even from the feel-good magazine (People) they say "Anyone who has ever felt broken and wished for a better life will find inspiration in Frey's Story".

I cannot even remotely disagree with ANY of these cut quotes.

Perhaps the best one is "ripping, gripping... It's a staggeringly sober book whose stylistic tics are well-suited to its subject matter, and a finger in the eye of the culture of complaint... engrossing"

This last one, coupled with Frey's purported denial of AA's 12 Step Program and his constant denial of GOD is PROBABLY what is, at the bottom, so contentious about this book. It IS a finger in the eye of the culture of complaint. The way the James of the novel deals with is situation is very, very admirable. For someone so obviously weak to be so uncommonly strong is THE selling point. Whether it's true or not, it's a compelling story. For me, I'm reading story. It simply doesn't occur to me to think repeatedly "oh, he survived?" Of course he did, he wrote the book 10 years later. It's like watching "Titanic" and being amazed at the final outcome.

On a very personal note, I'll tell you, reading this book, as someone who wavers daily about whether I may be an abuser of alcohol, I have to say that reading this, if even 1/10 of it IS true, I can honestly say "hmm... I guess I'm really not that bad."

not that bad, really, no really

Paul Stone
Kingsville, ON, Canada

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