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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jame's Freys Final Interview with Oprah

Flipping through the channels and there is James Frey with Oprah. Isn't he, yup, that's him. So I watch. Not an Oprah watcher except for salivating over Oprah authors who made the home run slam and hit it out of the park with the big mommas endorsement. Oprah called it scaling up a book. Authors call it hitting the mother lode and no more crappy jobs you don't care about and hello bestsellerdom. For a writer of fiction there can be nothing more precious when going against every celeb wantabe out there.

But here is Oprah looking very Grand Dame and James Frey looking much the same when A Million Little Pieces hit the streets. Oprah has her "you can make up to me anytime you want" eyes and the pained expression of experience. How did you feel when you came on the show? Ambushed. Yeah. And do you regret what you did? I take responsibility for it. Didn't you shop the book around as fiction first? Yes, but the publishers wanted a memoir. This all seems very quaint in the Fox News/Donald Blather era. She took him down because he said his book was a memoir when it was fiction? Really?

I did not see the famed take down. At the time I didn't really care. I have read A Million Little Pieces and it is a good book. Period. If a person is reading a book be it memoir or fiction for self help then they are barking up the wrong tree. That the book was not true mattered not at all to me. Suspension of disbelief. Maybe you have heard of it. When we are reading we do not say this really happened because it is happening. It is intellectual dishonesty to give more import to a story simply because an author says it is true. We do not read that way. We read in a dream. That is all good writing. The current fascination with did it really happen books or memoirs is ridiculous. People want to read a good story. If you think only good stories really happen then you should read Huckleberry Finn or The Great Gatsby.

In the end Oprah is making nice and it seems all is forgiven. Maybe time heals. Maybe good television requires she play the benefactor and forgive. Who knows? But if a good story is what she was after when she took Frey's book to her book club then she was on the right track. As Hemingway said many many times, "the only good stories are the made up ones."
Rocket Man will blast off July 26th

Books by William Hazelgrove