January 11, 2006

A million little pieces of boredom

I've been interested in the brouhaha over possible fabrications in James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, the addiction memoir that Oprah Winfrey has propelled to the top of the NY Times bestseller list. The Smoking Gun's released a huge expose on possible fabrications in the book, A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey's Fiction Addiction. Juicy stuff, partly because one of my favorite tropes on the Minnesota landscape, the famous Hazelden Clinic, features prominently.

Throughout the tale, Frey almost kicks to death a homosexual priest, is involved in a car-train crash that leaves two young women dead, gets involved with the FBI, and set a Breathalyzer record in Michigan, and befriended an illiterate cellmate whom he read Tolstoy to. Now it turns out all of these things are most likely embellished if not downright fabricated.

I'm not really surprised. Addiction is just so boring. The people I've met who have been dealing with addiction--alcoholics or pill-poppers, recovering and not--have been the most boring people on the planet. Make up some lies about the condoms in your digestive tract breaking on the flight to nicaragua just to keep me awake. Seriously.

It's reminded the folks at MN Speak about another flap over facts in memoirs with a Minnesota connection...The Summer of Ordinary Ways, written by Nicole Helget and published by MHS Press, is a northern gothic tale that I haven't read but do know that apparently the dad in the story bludgeons a cow to death. Helget's family has been putting into question the facts in that book too.

Earlier this week there was an article in the NY Times unmasking JT Leroy (whose writing I despise). The unmasking of JT had already been gossiped and blogged to death, but the article did provide a few more details about the identities behind the persona. I thought the writing was bad for an early-twenties ex boy prostitute, but to find out the shlock was perpetuated by a failed rock musician couple, 39 and 40 years old, made it even sadder and more embarassing.

It's a philosophical conundrum. If the writing is good, do the facts matter? Not a whit. But in the age of the cult of the author, when a writer's interviews, personality, appearance on Oprah, Amazon blog and weekly podcast matter just as much (or more) as the text of their book in terms of generating sales, perpetuating as fact literary devices and plotlines outside the pages of the book has a different affect.

Oh, I love it all. It's all art and theater. Hey, we're all trying to make our humdrum lives more interesting. Especially addicts. They're so boring!

Posted by jason at January 11, 2006 08:10 AM

Addicts *are* boring. I once dated guy who was into crank. You'd think with all that using and the AA/NA meetings I'd have some good stories about him, but mostly he just stayed up watching bad TV all night and cried about how much his life sucked. The most pathetic thing he did weas get kicked out of his apartment, but there was nothing dramatic or interesting about that. No orgies, no knife fights, no escape from would-be murderers. Just another boring life.

Posted by: Mcmcmcly at January 11, 2006 05:58 PM


Posted by: jason at January 11, 2006 08:00 PM

Is 'crank' really a drug? I just thought it was this catch-all phrase my dad used to mean anything remotely illegal

Posted by: robert at January 12, 2006 02:49 PM

I am by no means very street smart, but i've always used the term to describe a form of meth. I think it's sort of the poor man's cocaine. But really i have no clue. I never much cared enough to learn exactly what drugs he preferred.

Posted by: Mcmcmcly at January 12, 2006 05:22 PM
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