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Author Topic: "Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud  (Read 2547 times)

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Dan

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« on: January 09, 2006, 08:09:46 PM »

A hot topic in the '50 Books for 2006' thread is stirring the pot elsewhere.

From CNN but available seemingly everywhere on the internet.

'Million Little Pieces' called a fraud
Best-selling Oprah selection said to contain fabrications


NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Only Harry Potter sold more books last year than James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," but was the American's memoir of alcohol and drug-induced mayhem as much fantasy as the boy wizard himself?

Frey's book sold 1.77 million copies last year after being chosen by Oprah Winfrey's book club in September, but one investigative Web site now says his book was based on lies.

The book's publisher, Random House's Doubleday division, stood by the author and declined to make Frey available for interview. But on his personal Web site bigjimindustries.com he called the article "the latest attempt to discredit me."

"So let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt, I stand by my book, and my life, and I won't dignify this bulls--t with any sort of further response," Frey wrote.

"The Man Who Conned Oprah," was the headline on Monday on The Smoking Gun Web site, a news site owned by Court TV. The article on Frey charges he fabricated serving a prison sentence, exaggerated his role in an FBI investigation and lied about his status as an outlaw "wanted in three states," among other things.

"I was a bad guy," Frey told Winfrey in a television broadcast last October which made him an overnight literary sensation. "If I was gonna write a book that was true, and I was gonna write a book that was honest, then I was gonna have to write about myself in very, very negative ways."

But The Smoking Gun says, "He has demonstrably fabricated key parts of the book, which could -- and probably should -- cause a discerning reader ... to wonder what is true in 'A Million Little Pieces' and its sequel, 'My Friend Leonard.' "

Random House spokesman Russell Perreault, declined to discuss the Smoking Gun article beyond saying, "We stand in support of our author, James Frey, and his book which has touched the lives of millions of readers."

A spokeswoman for Winfrey did not return calls for comment.

Central to Frey's book, published in 2003, is his assertion that he was charged with assaulting a police officer in Ohio with his car, with inciting a riot, with possession of crack cocaine and felony drunk driving -- charges that he wrote resulted in him serving a three-month prison term.

But Smoking Gun editor William Bastone said that incident was really "as vanilla an incident as you will ever see."

"The overall majority of contentions he makes in the book are not borne out by contemporaneous police records or by interviews we conducted with police and court officials in Ohio and Michigan," Bastone told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

The Smoking Gun's Web site displays the original police officer's report of the 1992 incident which shows Frey was found drunk in his car without a driver's license but did not, as he wrote, serve time behind bars for the incident or behave in the outrageous manner portrayed in his book.

"He (Frey) was polite and cooperative at all times. He was later released on $733 cash bond," the police report from the October 24, 1992, incident concludes.

And of Frey's claim that he was the subject of an FBI drug investigation while at university, Bastone published a police report revealing him as a bit player in a minor drug probe rather than the "outlaw" portrayed in his memoir.

"In off-the-record interviews with us, Frey admitted embellishing facts in the book for dramatic impact," Bastone said, adding that Frey later backed off that stance and his lawyers have since threatened to sue.

Frey also told The Smoking Gun during the course of three interviews before the article was published that he had sought to have his legal records expunged when his book was first published in hardcover in 2003, Bastone said.

Frey's lawyer Martin Singer was not immediately available for comment. But in a letter to the Smoking Gun dated January 6 and published on the Web site, he called The Smoking Gun's assertions defamatory and threatened a lawsuit for millions of dollars in damages.

"We do not expect to be sued," Bastone said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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cuddlyevil

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2006, 09:41:18 AM »

My sister's friend (also a librarian) sent me the link to the smoking gun: can't wait for my next book club meeting

oh, and the new york times
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cuddlyevil

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2006, 10:09:04 AM »

My sister and I are having a discussion on how this will effect the publishing house. It seems frey originally tried to get the book published as fiction, but no one picked it up and then the house that did never asked him to make any changes or put in a disclaimer. (It should be noted that, according to my sister, some of the major biographies of the last couple years have had disclaimers saying that things had been changed or enhanced).
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bluebastard

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2006, 11:57:06 AM »

I figured some of the topics had to be embellished--it's non-fiction and no matter how off the charts someone's life is, it's never going to be as interesting in writing without some punching up.

If anything, The Smoking Gun just caused more people to go and buy the book. Controversy breeds sales (not that Frey's sales aren't already huge).
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cuddlyevil

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2006, 12:12:14 PM »

I agree Blue. One of the girls in my bookclub said she's going to read his other book, My friend Leonard, as soon as she finishes "a million little pieces.".  Even if half of it's fiction, it's a scary read. I'm gonna sit back and see what sort of fallout comes out of this situation.
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cuddlyevil

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2006, 12:54:23 PM »

"When it came to those events, I relied on my memory" - James Frey on Larry King Live.

And the girl in my book club who is going to read his other book is all "like every book about a person's addiction isn't embellished in some way. It's still about his time in rehab." Yep, he just made parts of it up so that it'd be more interesting and people would buy it, sure that's okay. Maybe it needs to be reclassified as "alternate history"?
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cuddlyevil

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2006, 02:47:11 PM »

Frey's going to be on Oprah's show tonight to defend himself. Oprah's apologized for her call to Larry King live defending Frey's book. If it's being shown tonight around here, the book club meeting should be fun...
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redbobsled

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2006, 03:56:54 PM »

If you don't want to watch Oprah (and who can blame you?), here's a story about what happened on the show from Publisher's Weekly online.

Oprah Grills Frey, Talese

James Frey and publishing standards were both in the hot seat this morning when Oprah Winfrey brought in the author and his editor Nan Talese to talk about the controversey swirling around Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Saying she felt "duped" by Frey, Winfrey said she had allowed her feelings about the book and Frey's strong relationship with her producers to cloud her judgement about the author when she called in to defend him on the Larry King Show earlier this month. "I made a mistake and left the impression that the truth does not matter, and I am deeply sorry about that," Winfrey said.

Frey acknowledged that the Smoking Gun story was "pretty accurate" and admitted that he only spent a few hours in jail, not months or weeks, and that he had changed substantial facts about some characters, such as that Lily had slit her wrists, not hanged herself when she committed suicide.

Winfrey made it clear that she wasn't just upset with Frey, but with the publisher's support of Frey's depiction of the book as a true account of his life. Winfrey wondered why Frey's description of having a root canal without novocaine didn't provide a red flag to Talese about the truthfullness of the book. Winfrey also said one reason she was so taken with the book was "you can't believe that all of this happened to one person."

Talese explained that after she and colleagues read the book it was legally vetted and that because she believed in Frey the book was released as a memoir. Talese also stated that her colleagues “had no questions” when she passed the manuscript on to them, implying that none had come up over the nine months that the book wended its way through the editorial and copyediting process. But Winfrey wasn’t buying it.

With evident outrage, Winfrey told of how a Hazeldon counselor came forward to challenge aspects of the story eight days after Winfrey announced in the fall that she was choosing Pieces for her club. Winfrey said she had then asked Doubleday if "stood behind James's book as a work of nonfiction at the time, and they said absolutely." Winfrey also questioned how a publisher could send out a press release touting the book as a "brutally honest" look at addtion, when they "haven't checked it to be sure." To which Talese responded "its very sad for you. It's very sad for us."

Calling for change in the industry, Winfrey emphasized that publishers have a duty to consumers to distinguish fact from fiction. "I'm trusting you, the publisher, to categorize this book whereas fiction or autobiographical or memoir. I'm trusting you."
--Jim Milliot & Charlotte Abbott
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cuddlyevil

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2006, 04:14:54 PM »

Cnn's got a pretty good article too.

Unfortunately, I'll have to watch Oprah. One of the girls in my bookclub is taping it to watch at the meeting tonight. *sigh*
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rva

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2006, 05:32:00 PM »

Seems to me those same things Oprah's talking about should have raised warning signs with her before she praised the book and then called Larry King to defend Frey.  I would have lost a lot of respect for her if I'd had much to begin with.

Thing is, he really is a pretty good writer.
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cuddlyevil

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2006, 09:48:06 AM »

His writing style in this book pissed me off, it take a lot of getting used to. The interview with Oprah was funny to watch with the book club, in the book he refers to his rage/repression/etc as "the FURY" and when they were cutting to him while that scholar was talking we kept saying "the FURY is rising!". Oprah took a page from Dr. Phil and made that boy squirm worse than when you're 12 and sitting in the principal's office waiting for your parents to pick you up after you got caught skipping class/smoking/whatever. We were wishing that they'd taped something for oxygen to see what the audience members had to ask him.

Doesn't matter, Oprah just helped him sell another 1.7 million books. My copy will be available on either e-bay or amazon shortly.
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Juliana

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2006, 01:09:32 PM »

It sounds like Oprah DID have questions, and she DID ask the publishers, and the publishers DID say that the story was nonfiction.

I think Oprah is awesome.  More people reading books?  Good.  I've only read a few Oprah book picks.  One was *AWESOME* (The Poisonwood Bible), one *SUCKED* (The Corrections), and the rest were all sort of "eh" for me.
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Hell Toupee

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2006, 10:48:33 PM »

Quote from: "Juliana"
It sounds like Oprah DID have questions, and she DID ask the publishers, and the publishers DID say that the story was nonfiction.

I think Oprah is awesome.  More people reading books?  Good.  I've only read a few Oprah book picks.  One was *AWESOME* (The Poisonwood Bible), one *SUCKED* (The Corrections), and the rest were all sort of "eh" for me.


Awwww.... I liked The Corrections.
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Juliana

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"Million Little Pieces" called a Fraud
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2006, 09:06:08 AM »

Hey, that's cool.  It just didn't do it for me.  
Really, I don't care what people are reading, just that they are reading.
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