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2.35 Million Little Pieces

frey.jpgSo, I suppose the really big legal news of the day is that Paris Hilton was arrested last night on a DUI charge, which she typically blew off, saying she’d had only one drink but that it had been a long-hard day and she hadn’t eaten anything (and given her stick-like figure, that’s not hard to believe). Anyway, because she neither let loose a string of racial slurs nor attempted to trade in sexual favors in exchange for only a warning, the DUI doesn’t provide a lot of comic fodder, I’m afraid.

Another potential story — given the impending opening night of the NFL — involves former Denver running back, Terrell Davis, who is suing his insurance company after it refused to defend him following a post-Emmy awards fracas, in which Davis was assaulted for talking to a white waitress. But, there’s not a lot to that story, either.

No. I’m a lot more intrigued by the settlement that James Frey and Random House have arrived at, agreeing to refund buyers of Frey’s novel, “A Million Little Pieces,” for up to $2.35 million. As you might recall, Frey’s book was billed as a memoir, but The Smoking Gun later revealed that many of the episodes in the book were completely fabricated. Under the terms of the settlement, people can provide a receipt, a particular page of the hard cover, or the front cover of the paperback, along with a sworn statement that they thought the book was a memoir, to receive their refund.

I sort of applaud Random House for settling the case, a case I understand they had no chance of really winning in the first place. But, I guess I’m a bit dismayed at the fracas the whole ordeal started in the first place. I’m certainly not defending James Frey, though I do think that there is probably some merit to his argument that Random House convinced him to label a fictional autobiography as a memoir for marketing reasons. But, I’ve read both “A Million Little Pieces,” and Frey’s even more outlandish follow-up, “My Friend Leonard,” before these revelations were made, and I viewed both with a healthy amount of skepticism. And, honestly, I thought Frey — as a writer — was a bit of no-talent hack, but he did have one helluva story to offer. And, in both cases, I think I got enough entertainment value out of the books to justify the purchase, so I think it would be a bit dishonest to ask for a refund.

Moreover, I’m a big subscriber to the concepts of truth in fiction, and I never really thought that anything I got out of Frey’s novels was retrospectively sullied after I found out that he’d made up several parts of his life-story. After all, I do believe that you can still find most of Hunter Thompson’s books in the “memoir” section, but a large part of his oeuvre involves drug-fueled hallucinations of events instead of what actually happened. “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” for instance, contains numerous fictional accounts, yet I doubt there is any other book that more accurately captures the “aura” of that the ’72 campaign. But, I don’t see a lot of folks rushing to get the refunds after purchasing Thompson’s “memoirs.”

The uproar over plagiarism, I can understand - that involves out and out theft. But I get off the bus when folks get their panties in a wad because a supposed memoirist takes dramatic liberties or even makes things up whole cloth. Hollywood attempts to pass off films “inspired” or “based” upon a true story damn near every week (see, Invincible), but no one seems to take issue with that, even if the studios are attempting to have you believe that every scene accurately depicts what really happens.

I suspect that Mr. Frey’s writing career, after Random House dropped him, is pretty much over. But, when he does decide to write a true-life account of his experiences during this entire ordeal, I expect that I’ll be one of the first (and maybe only) guy to buy the book, because even if much of it is made up, I suspect that beneath it all there’s a great deal of truth.

| Comments (3)


I, for one, would love to see Frey write a true, honest memoir of everything that happened after "Million Little Pieces" was outed as fiction. THAT would make a compelling story.

I'm not sure why everyone cared so much about Frey's "liberties" with the supposed truth. Sure, when I read the book I felt like certain things were questionable, but I read it as if it was a memoir-novel. Someone told me it was good, and I read it. I did NOT read it because someone told me that it was a true story.

Even after all this happened, I don't think any less of the story - precisely because I read it as a story, not some kind of salvation/redemption for me. I seriously don't know what everyone's problem with this was, because regardless of certain mistruths and embellishments, the fact of the matter is that the true parts - about where Jim was seriously screwed up on drugs and was later able to recover, were still true, and isn't that what getting-over-drugs stories are always about?

I agree w/ surly suzie; great big whoppin' whoop! I enjoyed it, fiction or non. Made for a good read, anyway.