The entire brou-ha-ha over the so-called fictions in James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” is bringing me dangerously close to a nonstop tidal-wave of barf. Are these people kidding, or do people just like drama and love to jump on a bandwagon of hate? Probably both, let’s be honest we are a lynching people. Sources disagree to exactly how many witches were actually killed in the infamous witch trials, but let’s be honest: they were killing witches because they liked it, not because they really felt threatened by them. Ditto for the Spanish Inquisition. People love to see someone hounded and caught, whether they want to admit it or not, even to themselves. James Frey is just the most recent, and one of the more juicy, victims.
On her show yesterday Oprah Winfrey berated author James Frey for “betraying millions of readers.” I would love to ask her majesty if she truly believes, in her heart of hearts, whether every other memoir and autobiography she has ever read was 100% true. If she does believe that she is, in my opinion, at best extremely naive and at worst a deluded fool. Memories are by definition subjective, there is no getting around that. We do not have access to other’s memories, or some preternatural objective memory computer, so the best we can do is retell things as we believed they happened. This makes every single memoir and autobiography ever printed fiction, whether you would like to believe it or not.
I don’t know whether James Frey intentionally altered what he believed to be the truth in his memoir, nor do I care. I choose to think for myself, and not have others tell me how things are or are not. When I heard about the hole in the cheek and the dentist visit minus Novocain I immediately and instinctively felt that these stories were false. Did I know for certain? No, but if one is even slightly savvy they would ask themselves a multitude of questions concerning these two incidents, most of which would lead to the conclusion of fiction entering the narrative. Do I care? No, I do not.
Q: Why do we read?
A: We read to be entertained.
Were you entertained by the book? If so, great; if not, fantastic too, but can you really say you were more entertained when you thought it was true? If so, why?
This entire debacle reminds me of the people who took their Milli Vanilli records back to the store when it turned out the singers of the songs were not who the listeners thought they were – I remember thinking at the time: “But isn’t it the MUSIC these people enjoyed? The music remains the same.”
And so, people, I tell you: the words remain the same.