Friday, January 13, 2006

Truth in Fiction

James Frey lied about being a bad guy in his book, A Million Little Pieces. The Smoking Gun says it's so. Apparently, Frey is a Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat boy that wrote a book of fiction and tried to pass it off as a memoir. Problem is, being a frat boy doesn't sell as many books as being a crook, so Frey decided to spice up his resume. His next mistake was trying to maintain the ruse even though he'd been found out. Frey should have taken a page from Tim O'Brien's essay, "How to Tell a True War Story" from his collection of linked short stories, The Things They Carried. In the title story, Tim O'Brien functions as a character in the story, the narrator and the author, but in his essay, he freely admits that the truth of the story is relative. Events in the story may or may not have happened. The reader may interpret the story as being true because of O'Brien's character in it, but that wasn't his intent. Frey intended for people to take his story seriously and now Random House is having to give rebates to irate readers. Frey could followed the example of blending fiction and memior as done by Vonnegut in Timequake or Chuck Barris in Confessions of a Brilliant Mind, but then perhaps he took himself and Ophra as the goddess of contemporary literature a little too seriously.

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