Tuesday, January 31, 2006

If you burn long enough, your brain will get Frey'd

What really troubles me about the whole James Frey thing is that we are not faulting his story. No one is saying his book isn't good enough - what we appear to be saying is that his life isn't good enough. Sorry James, if you'd only have gone to jail, we'd find you worthy. Your road to recovery wasn't ugly enough, rock bottom for you wasn't low enough...

Or is it that Frey told himself those things, and decided that simply puking his brains out and waking up with a snot encrusted face a couple hundred times wasn't dramatic enough, so he created the hollywood version of an addict just for his literary audience? Probably both.

Where is the story in all of this? If the story is good, if it touched people the way it originally touched Oprah, then the story stands on its own. I don't care about the author - his life isn't important to the story, to the message... is it?

I know that Stetson Kennedy has changed the world. If what he wrote about doing so doesn't match what really happened, I don't care. He - changed - the - world. That's a hell of a lot more than you or I have done.

Did James Frey change the world? I don't know, but I'd bet that his story about overcoming addiction has changed someone's world, and since it's the story that deserves the credit, not Frey's self-destructive life, then I don't see how whether he embellished the truth to tell that story matters.

And that is probably the last thing I'm going to say here on this topic. Sorry to have bored you.

Mark Pettus,
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

11 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Blogger Amie Stuart, Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins, Blogger Jeff, Blogger serenity, Blogger serenity, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Amie Stuart, Blogger Shesawriter,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 10:01 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

- what we appear to be saying is that his life isn't good enough.

I don't think that's true - the story would have been just as powerful, impactful and meaningful to those who needed it had it been sold and marketed as the fiction that it is. I think people are tired of putting their belief in something/someone then being told that what they thought was, was not true - you sell it as fiction, then it is on the up and up -

No, his life isn't important to story unless you push it at us as such - which he did - it was his story, his life not just a story

maybe it is the mommy in me that fights the little white lies w/ the kids and try to explain to them why even that can hurt

sorry, I am just tired of people doing what they know is wrong then thinking that if you apologize aftewards all is well ... I shall step off my soapbox now and go color my hair - rant over

at 10:16 PM Blogger Amie Stuart said...

DId you know he's no longer with his agent? I don't know what to think. Like many of Frey's fans I once read a book that meant a lot to me. it helped me get over a rought time in my life and i later found out it was all debunked as false (yes it was supposed to be non-fic!).

That book means no less to me but as a writer, what Frey did just KILLS ME!

As a parent and as an ex-wife of a man who still at age 36 can't accept responsibility for his actions, I have to agree w/Dennie. I strugle every day with the same things she does and with teaching my children the importance of taking responsibility for themselves and their words and actions.

Did that make sense?

at 1:55 AM Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Mark, your posts are far from boring. This newest post does confuse me somewhat. In the prior post, you say after listening to Peggy Bulger, and after seeing pictures of Kennedy, "it was hard to see the relevance of finding fault with the way he wrote his story."

In this post you're stating that "we appear to be saying is that his (Frey's) life isn't good enough."

I had to read both posts twice to get my mind wrapped around this.

If the story is good, and if it touched people who read it, yes I agree, the "story" stands on its own. Any good story will stand on its own.

I don't know Mr. Kennedy and I don't particularly care about either author, but if Frey's story could stand on its own, it could have stood as fiction.

As a passionate essay and article writer, I have to ask myself several questions before I publish anything I write. Will what I write be read? If it's read, will the reader feel what I feel? More important, at least to me, can I back up what I write?

I suppose I'm more stuck on the truth part of this issue simply because there is truth in my writing and I do know that I have touched and helped others with what I've written.

You're right about the story needing to be the focus, but when writing nonfiction, truth and credibility ensures the integrity of the story.

Without all of these, my essays and articles wouldn't be worth anything.

When writing fiction, I can make up whatever story I want with whichever characters I choose. If the story is good, it will stand on its own and not need to be authenticated.

I worried about Frey reducing the integrity and credibility of writers. With your story of those who are trying to discredit Mr. Kennedy, I find my fear was correct.

at 8:23 AM Blogger Jeff said...

Mark- If I see "Based on a true story," then I expect some embellishment and not always completely factual information. If the story is non-fiction I expect the facts to be accurate.
Fiction as well as non-fiction can motivate and change peoples lives for the better, but I believe writers need to be honest about which it is they are writing. That's my two cents worth. :)

at 10:41 AM Blogger serenity said...

DISCLAIMER: I haven't had my coffee yet.

Writers have always embellished "true stories," either for entertainment or commercial purposes. Particularly when the writers are their own protagonists. Anyone ever read Pat Garrett's account of his hunt for Billy the Kid? Yeah. Before, all anyone ever did was wink and take it with a grain of salt. The stories were better than the truth, and everyone knew that. No one wanted to know the "real" story, because the "real" story is invariably less entertaining than the embellished story. Now suddenly everyone's feeling all betrayed because writers aren't telling the truth. When did that happen? Is truth just now gaining a foothold over entertainment? I think not. It's only been layered in a new, tantalizing sauce called "scandal" and allowed to simmer. More entertainment, more ill-defined "truth." Don't forget to check out the tabloid headlines while you're waiting in line.

at 11:17 AM Blogger serenity said...

P.S. That wasn't directed at anyone in particular. I'm just feeling a little feisty this morning. :)

at 3:20 PM Blogger Bernita said...

Oh dear, is that the "everyone's doing it, so it isn't bad" excuse?

at 6:36 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

I have to disagree w/ you Serenity - (I mean, yes, writers embellish sure - no one disputes that however...) He went on Oprah and said - yes this really happened to me, yes I did this, and had this happen. That is not embellishing - that is flat out lying.

Sure we want stories to entertain us, but when we hear "truth" we expect "truth" - I think had he said from the beginning that he used his literary license that people wouldn't be all bent out of shape - granted he probably wouldn't still be on the best sellers list (#6 on Amazon and B&N #2 on NYTimes paperback sale)

at 9:07 AM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Dennie emailed me last night and said she hoped I hadn't taken the post down because of her comments.

This post disappeared overnight because I discovered that I had used the contraction you're instead of the possessive your in the title and attempted to correct it(Nobody pointed out my error. Remind me not to ever ask you guys to critique me).

I didn't notice the post had disappeared, but after reading Dennie's email, I found it - saved as a draft - and then republished.

at 9:45 AM Blogger Amie Stuart said...

Blog critiquing is not in my job description ;-)

P. S. That was a joke

at 7:53 PM Blogger Shesawriter said...

I'm not faulting his life. He just needs to stop lying about it.



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