Passing The Buck on "Million Little Pieces" Debacle To Someone Not There
The AP story on James Frey fessing up about the now-discredited "A Million Little Pieces" has Nan Talese offering what might be a startling excuse for Frey's deceptions, namely that no one bothered to check whether his book was true before Random House sent it to the printer.
Talese, an industry veteran whose many authors have included Ian McEwan, George Plimpton and Thomas Cahill, told Winfrey that editors who saw the book raised no questions and that "A Million Pieces" received a legal vetting. She acknowledged that the book had not been fact-checked, something many publishers say they have little time to do, but that future editions would include an author's note saying parts of the book "had been changed."
Talese had told Oprah's people Frey was on the up and up when questions about the book were raised before the Queen Of All Media gave it her unqualified blessing.
Good luck to Random House in ever getting one of their titles on Oprah's Book Club again.
What's telling -- or disingenuous, as the case may be -- is a quote in the story from Ashbel Green, a senior editor at Knopf.
"But this question of fact checking is a complicated one. At The New Yorker and Time and Newsweek, you have experienced people who know where to go and what's right and what's wrong. We don't. There's been a traditional dependency on the author."
Say what? As long as the lawyers deem it's not libelous you can put anything and everything in a supposed memoir and the publisher will give you a free pass, is what Green is essentially uttering. Very scary indeed.
And if publishers don't have experienced fact-checkers, can't they go out and get some when the situation demands. But then that would cost money, wouldn't it? Even worse, it could ruin a really great story.