WRITING

A Million Little Lies is a remarkable article about the apparent lies that make up James Frey's celebrated autobiography A Million Little Pieces. It makes an incredibly strong case that the book that has made Frey an international best-seller and literary rockstar is almost completely made up.

If this book is fiction, and unless the Smoking Gun article is fictional the book should certainly be reclassified, then what does that mean for James Frey? His status as a sort of tough-guy self-help guru for addicts would surely go away but as far as the writing goes, what would it mean? From the small excerpts I've read of his work, it doesn't seem very good as fiction but as autobiography it certainly has a unique style. Does autobiography always have to be completely true? I don't know. Plenty of people have written faux-biographical novels, even starring characters with the author's name. And most autobiography is certainly a little embellished but completely made up is a different animal.

It seems to me like James Frey was too normal for his own tastes and the somewhat generic quality of his life led him to construct an elaborate alternate fantasy life. Everybody does this at some point, usually in high school. The difference is that Frey wrote his down and called it autobiography. Where the real James Frey had a drunken college run-in with police and was promptly bailed out, the "James Frey" of A Million Little Pieces hit a cop with his car, had a standoff with the officers and proceded to heckle and berate the cops before being sentenced to 3 months of hard time. It's easy to see how somebody whose boring upper middle-class life didn't match up to the grand stories he told people to impress them.

If this article were published in a magazine like Esquire, it would be all over the media. Since it's on the Smoking Gun website, I wonder how much play it will get. They've done just an awesome job of looking into this and I hope people check it out. I'd love to see a discussion on just how much fiction you can put into an autobiography before it becomes a novel and a lie. I'm also curious to see how people like Oprah, who have put Frey on a huge pedestal, react to the fact that the life they were inspired by only exists in one man's head.

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