Editor In Middle Of Frey Fray Has Trouble Discerning Fact From Fiction
In the myriad of stories written about James Frey and the many fabrications that are at the heart of "A Million Little Pieces," publisher Nan Talese is often mentioned, usually with such words as "esteemed," "respected" and "veteran." After yesterday's appearance on Oprah, add "clueless" to the pile.
As this space has previously mentioned, Talese has been adamant in insisting memoirs should be held to a different standard than autobiography, rationalizing that a memoir is an author's impression of what happened and shouldn't be held to the same rigorous standards of other nonfiction genres.
Fortunately, hers is the minority viewpoint, but that short-sightedness is what had her bobbing and weaving on Oprah after the talk-show titan turned Frey into a pathetic globule of Jell-O after he fessed up to embellishing or downright fabricating the most compelling parts of his tale of addiction and redemption.
Talese offered a lame analogy of when she was helping Rosalynn Carter with her memoir, and her ex-prez husband disputed the recounting of a certain event.
As Talese told it, Rosalynn retorted, "Now Jimmy, you can remember it your way and I'll remember it mine!"
Only thing is, the firestorm over "A Little Million Pieces" isn't a dispute of Frey writing there was a clear blue sky when there were a few high clouds. In much of the book Frey wasn't recounting events so much as making them up or wishing they happened another way.
Girlfriend Lilly hung herself? Um, no, she slit her wrists. Months spent in jail? Yeah, about that, it was only a few hours. Given Talese's reasoning, that's OK, it's how Frey remembers it. So what if it has no basis in reality?
Apparently, Random House, the parent of Talese's imprint, realizes that's a laughable even dangerous position and soft-pedaled an apology in a written statement that reads in part:
[I]t is not the policy or stance of this company that it doesn’t atter whether a book sold as nonfiction is true. A nonfiction book should adhere to the facts as the author knows them.
But first, Nan, they must be facts. Much of "A Million Little Pieces" is lacking in that crucial ingredient.
Which is why you'll see notes from the publisher and Frey in future editions of the book explaining just what you should and should not believe. Sort of like a Cliff's Notes to the truth.
Random House is also conveniently sending copies of the note to bookstores to insert in the copies they have now.
It's a note that Talese, once she gets out of denial, should commit to memory.