Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mr. Million's Millions

THE STORY BROKE EARLY YESTERDAY, and is only in its early stages of exploding. In case you missed it, you may as well get on board the Controversy Train early: best-selling author James Frey may have completely fabricated large portions of A Million Little Pieces. The investigative website The Smoking Gun published a six-page story on Sunday that called into question the "creative license" Frey took with his supposedly autobiographical tale -- and, by extension, its sequel, Mr Friend Leonard. This morning, the AP picked the story up and ran with it. And in the coming days, I can guarantee you, more and more media outlets will want a piece of Frey. Luckily for him though he's made up of a million of 'em, so there will be plenty to go around. What makes this whole thing so salacious to me -- and I haven't even read the book -- is how many people have gotten on Frey's bandwagon. And now, if he's a big fat liar, how many people will feel betrayed, because they bought his tall tale of harrowing drug addiction and redemption. Top of the list: Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah became Frey's champion when she made A Million Little Pieces an official selection of her Book Club. She had him on her show as her sole guest and successfully elevated, as with nearly every other author she has ever chosen, to rock star status. Frey has taken this fame graciously and gracefully, proclaiming himself "the greatest literary writer of his generation" and "the new Staggering Genius."

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

But that behavior, while highly douchebaggish, isn't cause for anything more than a shrug of "eh, so he's full of himself, so what?" What raises this whole incident to epic proportions is that his own heartbreaking work of autobiographical genius might be more than a little made up. It may just be, as Frey has put it, embellished for "obvious dramatic reasons." On the other hand, if The Smoking Gun is right, it might be a big fat lie. In which case, there might be a few million people who feel cheated and betrayed. And I'm not just talking about Oprah...or my fiance, who read Frey's first book and then got his second book as a gift for Christmas. The funny thing is, late last week, she finally picked up My Friend Leonard and started reading it. And when I walked into the room, I saw that she was flipping through to the end of it -- not a normal practice of hers.

"So you're skipping to the end?" I said.

"Something doesn't feel right about this," she answered. "It seems made up." A couple of days later, the story broke on The Smoking Gun.

So if I haven't even read A Million Little Pieces and therefore can't count myself in with the potetially duped masses, why do I have a bone to pick with James Frey? Well, I don't really have anything against the guy personally. I'm just fascinated with the story. One side is bending the truth. If it's The Smoking Gun, then they're just another celebrity-hater who loves tearing the icons down. But if Frey is bending the truth...wow.

I don't know about you, but I'm just gonna settle back and enjoy the show.

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