James Frey's first interview since Oprah threw a tantrum in front of him on her show in 2006. Frey famously wrote A Million Little Pieces as a memoir and then admitted that he'd made some of the story up after The Smoking Gun investigated.
The first interview with James Frey since all that unpleasantness with A Million Little Pieces. Lots of choice quotes in this one, but I'm going to go for: "My agent said her integrity was questioned, but it wasn't questioned enough for her to stop taking the money."
[This is a semi-regular feature following up on stuff I've posted here recently.]
As expected, the Digg vs. Slashdot post got featured on Digg but not on Slashdot. In my analysis, I noted:
The Digg link happened late Saturday night in the US and the Slashdot link occurred midday on Sunday. Traffic to sites like Slashdot and Digg are typically lower during the weekend than during the weekday and also less late at night. So, Digg might be at somewhat of a disadvantage here and this is perhaps not an apples to apples comparison.
Several folks complained about this, some saying that it invalided the whole thing. The Digging of the DvS piece gives us another look at the Digg effect, from right in the middle of a weekday. Digg #2 was dugg 1441 times, got 98 comments, and sent around 10,200 people to kottke.org. By contrast, Digg #1 was dugg 1387 times, garnered 65 comments, and sent ~20,000 people to kottke.org. Digg #1 was actually more successful in driving traffic to kottke.org on a Saturday night than Digg #2 on a Thursday afternoon. Here's a graph that compares the three events:
It's hard to see the exact effect of Digg #2 on this graph (I forgot to grab a screenshot of the bandwidth graph when it happened, so all I have is the historical wide view), but it doesn't stand out that much from what happened the previous day (each one of those "bumps" is a day) and didn't have much of an effect beyond the initial spike. However, judging from the traffic that the individual Digg pages drove to kottke.org (Digg #1: 4525 people; Digg #2: 2668 people), it looks like the iPod feature was more interesting to the Digg audience than the Digg v. Slashdot post (which makes sense). So, still not exactly a fair comparison and raises more questions than provides answers.
The James Frey thread ended up with almost 950 comments before I shut it down because of redundancy and a lot of nastiness on the part of a few participants. The kottke.org record for most comments on a post is nearly 1800 on this post about The Matrix Reloaded (continued here)....that conversation, while nerdy, was a lot more civil.
After reading some of those comments and other things written about the controversy (but without having read the book), my take on Frey is that memories are subjective and readers need to cut authors some slack on that when writing memoirs. However, Frey stepped over the line in manufacturing situations that didn't happen and deserves the backlashing he's now receiving. My favorite observation on this whole deal was made by Stephen on a mailing list we're both on. In a 2003 interview for The Observer, Frey said:
I don't give a fuck what Jonathan Safran whatever-his-name or what David Foster Wallace does. I don't give a fuck what any of those people do. I don't hang out with them, I'm not friends with them, I'm not part of the literati...A book [Eggers' AHBWOSG] that I thought was mediocre was being hailed as the best book written by the best writer of my generation. Fuck that. And fuck him and fuck anybody who says that. I don't give a fuck what they think about me.
To Oprah on Larry King last week, Frey had this to say:
I admire you tremendously and thank you very much for your support. And, you know, it's -- I'm still incredibly honored to be associated with you, and I will for the rest of my life. Thank you.
The man knows who buttered his bread, that's for sure. Oh, and The Onion's take is good too. "Accounts of assault with a deadly weapon, narcotics possession, and incitement of riot actually happened during 2002 Grand Theft Auto session."
Several folks picked up on the year in cities meme...check out the trackbacks on my post and on IceRocket for a bunch of other people's lists.
Many didn't realize that my letter to Apple Support was a joke. Sure, I had post-MacWorld gadget lust, but my new Powerbook is great, does everything I want, and I don't really want the new one. Besides, everyone knows you don't buy the first version of new Apple hardware...I'm waiting until they work all the kinks out. Here's a not-so-positive review of the MacBook Pro announcement at Unsanity.
More chatter about the new corporate logos for Kodak, Intel, UPS, and AT&T.
James Frey was on Larry King last night but didn't seem to address specific concerns about his book (transcript). Oprah called in to support him. I love the paragraph of disclaimer in the article: "The [Smoking Gun] Web site is owned by Court TV, which is half owned by Time-Warner, CNN's parent company. The movie rights have been purchased by Warner Brothers, also part of Time Warner." Meanwhile, the vigorous discussion continues in the thread...361 comments and counting.
Random House, the publisher of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, is offering refunds to folks who bought the book. Wow, this situation is getting out of hand in a hurry for Mr. Frey. And speaking of out of control, the kottke.org thread about Frey is going fast, furious, hot, and heated. Not sure where all the participants came from, but they sure are energetic.
The Smoking Gun just published a long article (via 3qd) alleging that James Frey's memoir, A Million Little Pieces, is not as non-fictional as he's claimed on Oprah and in countless other interviews. From A Million Little Lies:
Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources have put the lie to many key sections of Frey's book. The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw "wanted in three states."
In additon to these rap sheet creations, Frey also invented a role for himself in a deadly train accident that cost the lives of two female high school students. In what may be his book's most crass flight from reality, Frey remarkably appropriates and manipulates details of the incident so he can falsely portray himself as the tragedy's third victim. It's a cynical and offensive ploy that has left one of the victims' parents bewildered. "As far as I know, he had nothing to do with the accident," said the mother of one of the dead girls. "I figured he was taking license...he's a writer, you know, they don't tell everything that's factual and true."
TSG became interested in Frey when they attempted to locate his mug shot after his Oprah appearance, had difficulty locating it, and started to dig a little deeper. Along the way, they uncovered several instances in Frey's book that appear fictionalized or significantly embellished. When contacted for the story by TSG, Frey hired a lawyer and published some of his confidential correspondance with TSG on his blog, at the same time commenting:
So let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt, I stand by my book, and my life, and I wonï¿½t dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response.
TSG alleges that he also admitted in those conversations that parts of his book were untrue.
The Smoking Gun has a pretty good reputation with these sorts of things, so I expect this to be taken pretty seriously by the media and probably Frey's publisher and fans. A James Frey message board is already buzzing about the piece. If it holds up, TSG should get some recognition for it...this piece is as good as any investigative piece I've seen in a newspaper or magazine. I haven't gotten around to reading either of Frey's books...has anyone out there read them? What's your impression of the books and TSG's allegations?