Monday, January 30, 2006

I don't follow all many domestic American controversies too well, but I'm getting a kick out of this flap about James Frey and Oprah. I saw the guy on Larry King live and he struck me as a true weasel, especially considering his supposed memoir sounds like a pseudo-macho tale about how he defeated drug addiction by basically geeting real, real tough on himself. (I didn't read the book, nor do I intend to.)

The problem with non-fiction writing is that the world is gray and murky, and if you try to see things from multiple angles (which is important) and if you're honest (in my view, most important) then the stories you tell often tend toward gray and murky as well. And gray and murky just doesn't sell, as I've learned trying - and failing - to sell gray and murky stories.

This problem is easily solved, as James Frey discovered, by embellishing a few facts - say, putting clown costumes on people and have them dancing the merengue, or inserting a lime-green Honda that unexpectedly careens out of control, rams into a flowering dogwood and kills the protagonist's lover in the passenger seat. Whatever moves the goods...


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