James Frey & Jesus

What did you think of the interview between Oprah and James Frey? James Frey is the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces, sold it as a memoir, appeared on Oprah and was then exposed as fictionalizing part of it. Oprah praised the book, defended James, then ultimately came down on him hard. Too hard, I thought. I didn’t like who Oprah was that day. She humiliated him and his life went into a downward spiral.

Now he’s written a new book, and Oprah had him on two days in a row! She realized too late what a bitch she had been to him. I was captured by his honesty and by his generous spirit. I feel a little bit like a gossip girl here,but in his third book, Bright Shiny Morning, he had an Oprah-like character who called him and told him she was sorry for ripping him to shreds on television. In his novel he said he had the recording of that apology that included some other personal things the star didn’t want the pubic to know. He said he had that recording, intending to do nothing with it, but he had it.

So yesterday Oprah talks about the call she made to James, the call sounds like the one he talks about in Bright Shiny Morning. But they never referred to the novel. I wonder if Oprah read BSM. She had to know about the section of the novel, at least. Someone would tell her that.

Impressed with Oprah, too, thought it was brave of her to admit her ego was raging as they taped that second show years ago when she gave him a ruthless public whipping for lying. Oprah doesn’t understand writers if she doesn’t get that we tell stories and sometimes we embellish the truth. A lot. Most first novels are fictionalized, thinly veiled, autobiography. Most memoirs make stuff up. Memory is famously faulty and nobody remembers dialogue word for word.

I am so glad to see James Frey thriving and have already started his new book about how the Messiah or Jesus would come into our world today. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is fascinating and bound to cause a stir. Frey works outside of mainstream publishing today and he loves it. He says he feels free. And that Oprah, by dissing him on national television, helped make that freedom happen.

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  1. I missed the first dust-up between the two and chose not to read Frey’s book when I heard about it. The interviews this week were interesting follow-up and provided closure for both parties I think. I don’t think the topic needed two shows, which is a large portion of the little bit of showtime she has left. I have watched Oprah’s show as long as it has been on. I don’t take everything she says as gospel but I often learn something new. I will miss what her show provides and can’t see how she will ever be replaced.


  2. I have my own beef with what Oprah represents, but I agree her thrashing off of him was ridiculous. All so-called works of non-fiction are allowed room for interpretation and embellishment. It’s called creative non-fiction.


  3. I will miss Oprah too. As a writer, I can relate to Frey’s ambition to be published. He wanted to publish the book (A Million Little Pieces) as a novel. His publisher said it would sell better if they called it memoir. Large parts of it were true, so he said okay. I still can’t figure out why Oprah devoted two shows to Frey. It was interesting that she did not promote his book as heavily as she does most books. She didn’t pick it up and show the title several times like she usually does. Mainly they seemed to both be processing what happened several years ago.


  4. Thanks for the interesting update on this, Cindy. I missed it, with so much going on around here lately (Mom care, home renovation, local deadlines …) I got out of the afternoon TV routine, which is a shame, as I usually love to watch Oprah, and now she’s on her way to a new adventure.

    As for Frey, I am totally with you. Even in memoir, we writers embellish the truth, or create what I call “composite truth” when we are trying to tighten the material and make it more readable, or to keep the content flowing and bubbling along. Sometimes emotional truth is not *exactly* the same as the literal truth … but I think the reader typically expects that. Now, if we are talking about a straight documentary, or a biography, that’s different. But I think memoir has some creative license ….yes?


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