Friday, January 27, 2006

We All Lie…Even James Frey…

I truly believe that we ALL lie, to some extent…

I know I make every effort to be as honest as I can, especially nowadays. Over the past few years I have really grown to treasure honesty in both a matter of giving and receiving. But still, I understand that we will all still lie from time to time…

I suppose the matter has to be broken down into what purpose is the lie serving.

We’ve all heard the thought about how sometimes it is just best to tell a little lie in order to not hurt someone. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so if we just lie to them, especially when we are pretty sure they will never find out the truth of the situation anyways, then the lie is the best route to take.

Even on that one, I don’t know if I totally agree with it. I’ve had several accounts I can recall where I did not choose the lie in those types of situations, because I believed someone needed to be honest with that individual, even if it was going to hurt at first.

However, there have also been times when I’ve just taken the lie as my way out…

So, is a lie ever acceptable?

I don’t know the answer to that question (but I never shy down from debating a good and tough question…HA!)

So there it is…sitting on my bed: “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey. It was a much anticipated and gratefully accepted Christmas gift I got this year. I had it on my “wish-list” ever since I say Oprah’s episode with Mr. Frey back on October 26, 2005. I hadn’t heard anything about the book until that day I watched the episode. And yes, the book had been on her book club for apparently quite some time before that episode, but I’m a college graduate student—I don’t even read my couse textbooks, much less Oprah’s book club books, so there I was falling in love with this book through her interview with the author. I bet I had added it to my Amazon Wish-list before I even took the television remote to turn off the tv.

So I got it! It was for sure a daunting book to me, being some 400 pages and pretty small font, but I still planned to tackle it. I was even going to get by the fact that through skipping through it I noticed that every-other word was the “F-word,” which I am not a big fan of at all.

I had already found myself recommending the book to friends, before I had even read it myself…HA! I was just so excited to read it, but since I found myself already dedicated to another book at the time, I told myself “Frey would be next.”

I had great aspirations for this book before I even read it. Not only would it probably end up being the longest book I was able to read completely…HA…I had already planned to use it as a recommended reading tool for my future therapeutic counseling.

Then the word broke to me last night that not only had I apparently been clueless to what was going on in the media recently, but that the Oprah episode I had recorded from that day was on none other than James Frey (yes, if I know it is a week of “new” episodes on Oprah, I normally just record all week, sometimes not even sure what the show is on…HA!). It being that my night last night was already all booked with blogging assignments, I refused to read up on the internet about the James Frey controversy going on in the media, as well as making myself refuse to watch that day’s Oprah episode immediately.

So this brings me to tonight. As only a matter of minutes ago did I finish watching the Live Oprah episode (though it was Live at that time, of course, not for me since I’d recorded it from the day before) where she personally confronted James Frey on the controversy over his book.

Let me fill those in who were as clueless to this matter as I was before it was brought to my attention last night…

James Frey’s book, “A Million Little Pieces” is published as a memoir about his life story from being addicted to alcohol and crack and having to go through incredibly hellish situations in rehabilitation facilities and other circumstances to apparently overcome his addictions. The book apparently describes extreme situations in which James some how beats the odds. One particularly noted part of the book explains how his teeth were so badly damaged by the drugs that he had to get two root canals. As he tells the story, he had those two root canals performed with no numbing or pain medications; simply endured the excruciating pain.

With stories of brut determination like that, how can one reading NOT admire this individual for his triumph? So followers of Oprah’s book club; readers everywhere were calling Frey’s memoir their means for motivation to beat their addictions. His book sold millions of copies. He was inspiring people around the world!

Then The Smoking Gun (TSG) took their shot at the book…

Apparently others had tried to make some noise about the book, but from what I get from Oprah’s show, it was The Smoking Gun that really broke through with a big hit to Mr. Frey…

After some research, TSG brought up allegations that Frey’s book was not as authentic as he led his readers, as well as Oprah to believe. Apparently, James had fabricated parts of his apparent “memoir.” Just how much is true and how much is made up? That is the big question, and Oprah wanted answers, as she felt embarrassed by her original interview with James as he had apparently lied to her directly, on more than one account…

So then there was Oprah’s live show on Thursday. Wow. It was intense, and it was GOOD! Even down to the point of Mr. Frey’s publicist’s cell phone going off during the live on-air showing…HA!

The therapist in me truly enjoyed watching Frey’s behaviors and facial expressions as he was undoubtedly questioned about his degree of honesty in accordance with what he had shared with his readers in his book, as well as with Oprah during his original interview with her on her show.

The more I watched of the show, with his book sitting right beside me (as I wanted it right there; for it to be looking at it’s maker in the face too as we both shared in what he had to say), the more respect I lost for him. My trust for this individual was slipping away minute by minute of the show.

How could he lie about this all?! How could he lie to millions and millions of readers? How could he lie to OPRAH!?! HA!

It was overwhelming for sure at first. I wanted answers and I wanted them now! I was slowing seeing Mr. Frey’s book slip down on my “books to read” list.

But as quickly as I would have turned off my cell phone, had I been on a live show with Oprah, did the answers begin to come to me….

What if he was being paid to lie? I could see a big corporate publishing house (such as Doubleday that he had got his contract to publish with through) paying him to lie about the authenticity of his book to promote sales.

What if he had told them up-front that it was not all 100% truth, but they swayed him to agree to promote it as a memoir because it would sell better then.

As it had been put, whether it was on the Oprah show, or the article on TSG, wherever it was that I heard it, Frey’s book probably would not have been picked up by any publisher, especially a big name one like it was, had it been listed as a fictional novel, because there are TONS of writers that can write well-written “unbelievable” stories of overcoming an addiction or such. The part that sold this book, not only monetarily, but sold it to it’s readers was the “fact” that this guy really went through all of this and lived to tell about it!

So, was Frey paid to lie and promote the book as 100% truth? Was he paid AGAIN to admit to lying once this all came out and to take the blame himself, rather than letting out the “fact” that the publishers were the ones that told him to lie in the first place? I mean a corporation can EASILY lay out some cash to save their reputation. We can’t let America know about what goes on behind closed doors between authors and publishers, right?

Or, was this book exactly as Frey HAD remembered it at the time of writing it, though he admits to some of its fabrications today. Yes, this is possible and that is because of defense mechanisms, which Frey himself mentions in his live interview with Oprah.

There is no doubt that this gentleman apparently struggled with quite an addiction (I DO believe that much), so knowing that, I can accept the idea that he could have had some serious defense mechanisms that could have altered his recollection as well as perceptions of some of the events. And it is even possible that that could have been the case when he actually wrote and first published the book, and since that time has dropped the guard on some of those mechanisms, therefore allowing the truth to come out, not only to us, but for him as well.

So could that be the case?

Or did James simply just lie to everyone: his publicist, his original readers, his millions of additional readers—thanks to Oprah, as well as Oprah herself. Was he fully aware of his lack of truth the whole time and he kept it up as a money-thirsty author wanting to sell another copy of the book?

I don’t know…

I’m not sure what is the truth in this situation, nor am I sure that any of will ever really know.

What I DO know though is how one notation of a lack of honesty can plummet an individual’s level of trust with people. Now we don’t know WHAT we can trust anymore from James Frey. Now it is easy, as you saw from this blog entry itself, to doubt everything and leave it all up to the unknown.

At once it was fully trusted, only slightly later in time to lose it’s credibility.

We are all capable of that, not just James Frey. This is why it is important to truly weigh the purpose and consequence behind each potential lie….is it worth it…

[Note: This blog is in no way to say I think writing a story about one’s life has to be word for word 100% of what truly happened. Even Oprah made that point. However, she pointed out, that if you are going to publish it as a “memoir” that apparently means it is exactly as it happened, no fabrication. Should one chose to “jazz-up” some parts of the story, Oprah suggested publishing it as “based on a true story.” In THAT case, it apparently means the story is not 100% as it occurred, but it follows a similar storyline. Having said that, I believe Mr. Frey could have saved himself the label of “a liar” by promoting his book as a novel based on a true story. I DO believe that the extremity of the events he apparently endures in the book probably is VERY motivational to other addicts, and for that, I have NO problem with making the events more dramatic as they really were, because that can motivate the addict reader even more, but IF you are going to do that, do not promote it as completely true.]


Jackie Beth said...

Side question: Is Memoirs of a Geisha a true story?

FeedingYourMind said...

JB: You would always be the student I would be afraid of in class if I was a professor....

...the student who asks the questions I don't know the answer too! ;)

Linds said...

He was set up by zombies.

Also... of all the "bad words" the "f-word" is one of my favorites :D