James Frey, the acclaimed yet controversial author of the Oprah pick A Million Little Pieces, is quoted as writing of his college days, ”Lying became part of my life. I lied if I needed to lie to get something or get out of something.” Perhaps Frey learned how to lie a little too well, as his “memoir” has come under fire for being rife with untruths. The Smoking Gun article found here gives a convincing argument that the book is largely fabricated.
What responsibility does an author have to be truthful? Is it ever ok for an author to portray fiction as non-fiction? Does a story being fiction diminish its power as a story? I haven’t read this book in particular but I have read other Oprah picks, because Oprah gives such a compelling argument as to the books’ merits! I would be annoyed had I read this book thinking it was true, but I think the subject matter is key here. If I were a recovering addict and found inspiration in Frey’s memoir, I would be much more wounded by the deceit. I find the alleged lying in Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin much more disturbing, as it is linked with mishandled money that was supposed to be designated for charity. I would be devastated if author John Elder Robison had lied about having Autism in his book Look Me In the Eye, as people with developmental disabilities are very close to my heart.
I have, and have parted ways with some, friends who have trouble with the truth, to put it gently. It is unsettling to let someone in to your heart only to be deceived by their words. I think there is a parallel here with authors. We let them into the most private and intimate recesses of our minds and hearts and when we find out we have been betrayed, it is supremely painful.