More Little Pieces and Blurred Lines
Earlier this month I wrote about how controversy sells and I used the example of the James Frey book, A Million Little Pieces. Today on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah reversed her previous defense of Frey’s stretching the facts. She had the author on her show and reversed her position. As the New York Times article reports, “I gave the impression that the truth does not matter,” Ms. Winfrey said. “I made a mistake.” To all of the viewers who called and wrote to her telling her she was wrong to allow Mr. Frey to maintain that his book reflected the “essential truth” of his life even though substantial details were falsified, Ms. Winfrey said, “You are absolutely right.”
I’ve read in other articles that Frey has decided not to write any more nonfiction but only to write fiction for his future books. It’s probably a wise decision on his part. By it’s nature, memoir and nonfiction are true stories—not created like fiction. The line between fiction and nonfiction blur at times—and to me that’s a problem and concern. It pops up in publishing from time to time. The controversy over the Frey book is only the most recent example. Over fifteen years ago, Questar Publishers released a full-color hardback book called Bible Animal Storybook by Mack Thomas. At that time Questar Publishers was a separate company from Multnomah Publishers and this book was a major release for this company. A variety of key Bible stories were told from the viewpoint of talking animals. These stories were well-told and fun for kids. I had a key problem with this book because 1) animals don’t talk and 2) I believe the events of the Bible aren’t fiction but are historical events. With this book, the lines between fiction and nonfiction or make-believe and truth were totally confused. Small children can’t distinguish between reality and fiction. That skill comes later in our development. Now this book is long out of print. If you work at it, you can still track down a copy.