Why James Frey Doesn't Get It Right
To wit: I promised myself that I would not opine about other stuff here, as much as I may want to. Of course, in the shop we talk about all sorts of current issues and I write occasionally to the local papers. I regularly have hefty discussion on email with friends, folks I don't know, even authors and the occasional enemy. Here, though, I want to be about the books.
Because of this desire for focus, I also do not use this as a forum to tell you about other good blogs (although I've got some great friends who write), websites or op-ed pieces that I've seen.. I would guess you have plenty to read and that you visit blogs and sites more thorough than this one. So forgive me if I haven't mentioned your favorite blogster or haven't linked you to the many sites that revolve around the books and topics I've reviewed.
I would guess you know where this is going, though: I'm going to break my rule and send you a link, a link to an essay that I found exceptionally well-written, very moving, and important to the genre of literature I so admire, that of memoir. As you may know, there has been a firestorm of controversy and media appearances in recent weeks around the alleged dishonesty of the now-famous and hugely popular Oprah book of last year, A Million Little Pieces. We stock this book and have been moved by James Frey's creative prose, intense descriptions of his horrible journey into and out of brutal drug and alcohol abuse. It is not a book for the faint of heart, and although we find his humanistic self-dependency to be unsustainable (intellectually or experientially) it is a window into the dark side of the human experience.
Below is a link to a brilliant piece written by a woman who never trusted Frey's book, dislikes his style, and shares how she--who sweated blood to tell her story honestly---resents his cavalier attitude about the facts of his life. It is the best thing I've seen on this particular debate and a moving tribute to all those who do memoir well. King's essay (orginally in Publishers Weekly) has made me want to read her book, Parched, which is her own memoir of recovery from alcoholism. Anybody else know of it? We have it for those who are, as I was, moved by her brief essay.
Please click here to read Why James Frey Doesn't Get It Right by Heather King. I hope you appreciate her clarity and care and integrity, even if you may not agree fully with her critique of Frey.