Million Little PiecesI remember when this book was first released in 2003. I worked at Borders in the inventory department. We received a single copy.

The publisher tried to promote it by giving each major bookstore a free copy for employees to read and hand sell the book. Apparently that didn’t work, so they went after a much coveted marketing scheme: Oprah.

Yes, Oprah can sell books. It doesn’t matter what genre, subject matter, or even if the book is well written. If Oprah backs it, it will be on the best sellers for weeks, perhaps months. After she announced her selection we were continually sold out. Finally the publishers reprinted and we had so many copies we had to make a big display and overstock the rest.

Then the truth came out via The Smoking Gun website. This non-fiction book, which is a memoir about alcohol and drug recovery, is actually fiction. The author, James Frey, had sent the manuscript to 17 publishers as a fiction novel. Finally Talese, an imprint of Doubleday, agreed to publish it as a non-fiction memoir. Frey was given a $50,000 advance.

My Friend LeonardThere is much debate, not so much with the content, but the fact that it is categorized as non-fiction, when in fact it is a grossly embellished story. Frey is making a lot of money on a lie, albeit one which was primarily generated by the publisher. However, he accepted the terms. He embraced the lie and went on to write another book, which is categorized as fiction.

Should the publishers check the accuracy of so-called memoirs before they accept them as fact? Talese must have known there was a hint of fiction in the story, as the author had wanted it published as a novel to begin with. I guess the real question here is: Is Oprah the real victim here, or the brainwashed public? It is mind-boggling how this woman can sell books.

  1. I think when someone writes a memoir, it should be valid to the extent that at least the static truth of their experiences in fact happened.

    It’s one thing for someone to write a memoir (for example President Clinton) and simply omit something that happened because they felt it either was not necessary to write about or whatever (like MonicaGate). It’s another for a writer to say he went to jail and suffered things he never did.

    It’s like when Vanilla Ice was outed to never have been a street thug, never from the ghetto, never knew what it was like to be poor. His career was tarnished and his future ended up being dribbled with a song for a Turtles movie, The Surreal Life, and heavy metal/reggae music.

  2. Oprah sucks she got what she deserves. shes not all high and mighty as she thinks she is, I am.

  3. I’m pretty sick of Oprah thinking she is god or something remotely resembling it so I don’t think she is a victim in any of this. If Oprah is so powerful that she can pull child molesters off the street and pay $100,000 to the person who turns them in and she’s basically denouncing the FBI in the process then she surely could have gotten the facts straight on this book.

    Now I’m not saying I don’t think it’s a good thing when a child molester gets put away, but I get a little sick of the novelties and all.

    And I believe that being from Miami means that Vanilla Ice had to pass through at least one hood a day on his way to buy drugs. It’s a fine line my friend!

  4. i heard about this on the radio and i feel sorry for the publishing company. obviously someone wasnt fact checking like they should have been. but hay, the author still got rich off it, right? hes laughing all the way to the bank… ;)

  5. I feel the publisher created the problem. They are the ones who insisted on the book changing from a novel to a memoir. Frey is not free of blame – he knew it was dishonest and went with it, for the money of course.

    Oprah is trying to get on with her book recommending career. Her new choice is Night by Elie Wiesel. I guess she figures she’ll be safe sticking with books that are already on school reading lists.

  6. Arleigh on January 29, 2006 at 11:00 am said:

    I feel the publisher created the problem. They are the ones who insisted on the book changing from a novel to a memoir. Frey is not free of blame – he knew it was dishonest and went with it, for the money of course.

    I don’t know, didn’t he admit on Oprah that he changed it himself? And on Larry King?

  7. This quote from The Smoking Gun suggests otherwise:

    “Of course, if “A Million Little Pieces” was fictional, just some overheated stories of woe, heartache, and debauchery cooked up by a wannabe author, it probably would not get published. As it was, Frey’s original manuscript was rejected by 17 publishers before being accepted by industry titan Nan Talese, who runs a respected boutique imprint at Doubleday (Talese reportedly paid Frey a $50,000 advance). According to a February 2003 New York Observer story by Joe Hagan, Frey originally tried to sell the book as a fictional work, but the Talese imprint “declined to publish it as such.” A retooled manuscript, presumably with all the fake stuff excised, was published in April 2003 amid a major publicity campaign.”