Falling into a Million Little Pieces

James Frey admitted last week that he fabricated parts of his best-selling memoir A Million Little Pieces. His publisher didn't mind. Oprah didn't mind (Frey's book was recently chosen for Oprah's Book Club). And during an appearance on Larry King, Frey suggested that fabricating personal history is an accepted American literary tradition in the manner of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bukowski and Keruoac. Do you agree? If not, are you still planning to read the book or will you be canceling your hold?


I loved this book, and I think the criminal history is such a small part of the story that embellishment doesn't matter. Also, I generally assume that an author is using some creative license in his or her memoir. As long as the author isn't falsely claiming some honor or award, it doesn't bother me. Finally, in context of the story, if Frey needed to up the ante on his Criminal past in order to remind himself to stay sober, I have no problem with that.

I think what concerns a lot of people is that the criminal embellishments were the parts that could be discounted because of paper trails. What about the events/adventures he claims were true that have no paper trail? It is interesting that so many people are willing to believe that the parts that are not provable are accurate - or even more puzzling, they don't care if they are or not (Oprah's position).

I have it at home and will be happy to speed along the holds process by bringing it back without reading it.

I think that I agree with oprah, the book is very powerful whether it is completely real or not.

This book is a bunch of self aggrandizing crap! I don't believe a single word of it. Why didn't Frey just call it a novel with a first person narrator?

What I read recently was that Frey tried to sell it as just that-- Fiction, before resorting to calling it a memoir in order to get a publisher to look at it.

I suppose the question is, does a good story, a story enjoyed by a lot of people, have to be "true" in order to be published?

If you thought the book was so-so.. does a bad story become good reading because it was true? I know plenty of magazine articles I wouldn't read if I thought they were completely fabricated, and I know of several books that were novels with basis in historic realities that I enjoyed because of those connections (Da Vinci Code anyone? I read it for all the symbolism stuff, though much of it has been dismissed).

I know that I will never pick up a J. T. Leroy story, now that we know the person does not exist.. On the other hand, stories about drunks/druggies dragging themselves out of deep trouble never interested me..

There was an interesting guest on Fresh Air who made the point that in the past, young writers would produce first novels that were actually thinly-veiled memoirs. In the current market, it's the tell-all that sells, so young writers are producing memoirs that are actually thinly-veiled novels.

mmm, I feel like you're quoting something with that last line. ;)

There's a great essay on the interface between truth and fiction by Andrew Hudgins. It appears in The American Scholar, Autumn 1996, and is entitled "An Autobiographer's Lies."

It looks like Hudgins has a version of that essay at part of his recent book The Glass Anvil pub. UM Press. Don't see it in the AADL collection.

Edward Vielmetti

In their blog a couple of days ago, the Freakonomics guys suggested that Oprah's defense of the book might have been a preemptive strike to protect her next book club choice, Elie Wiesel's Night. While a discussion of whether Night should be read as fiction or nonfiction might be a meaty topic for a college classroom (or a library listserv!) it doesn't seem to be a direction Oprah wants to take.