Thursday, January 26, 2006

Kunta

I am writing to express my utter disgust in Oprah's show today. I have long respected Ms. Winfrey as a supporter of the written word and patron of creativity, but after today, I see her as a self centered megalomaniac.

I was proud of Oprah when I heard her call the Larry King show on January 11 to show her support for James Frey. I wholeheartedly agreed with her when she said that "A Million Little Pieces" " still resonates with” her and “resonates with millions of other people who have read this book."

When she retracted that statement on her show today, I found myself retracting my respect for Oprah. The hostess was clearly embarrassed by the negative attention this issue has brought her. Instead of standing up for this talented writer, she made a mockery of him.

I wonder if Ms. Winfrey would be as quick to grill Pulitzer Prize winning author Alex Haley? Some would argue that his "indiscretion" is far worse than that of James Frey. You will recall that Haley's best selling AUTOBIOGRAPHY "Roots" was found to be more fiction than fact. As reported in a 1993 Village Voice article by the investigative reporter Philip Nobile "Virtually every genealogical claim in Haley's story was false." In addition, Haley was was sued for plagiarism by the folklorist Harold Courlander. Courlander alleged that Haley had copied nearly 80 passages from his novel “The African” Despite denying any knowledge of the book, Haley quietly settled out of court—for a substantial $650,000.

True or not, “Roots” exposed million Americans to the horrors of slavery. This book helped open a dialogue and touched millions of lives. Would Oprah be as appalled with Mr. Haley.

James Frey and Alex Haley are certainly not the only writers in history that have embellished the truth to get to the heart of a story. Who didn’t learn in school that George Washington chopped down the cherry tree. We all know that is an urban legend, but do we fire every first grade teacher in America for telling a tale to teach a valuable lesson?

Yes, James Frey embellished the truth, but in doing so he opened the eyes of millions of readers to the realities of addiction. Why Oprah is so opposed to that, I will never understand.

10 Comments:

Blogger the IMAGINATIVE ACTION REGIME said...

YES! i was just about to post something like this. I saw the show today and was completely disgusted. I had long felt on the fence about ms. whinefrey (yikes), like "yes she is good" and then "no, she is an egocentric maniac" that is until today. Now, I fully believe that she is a self absorbed bully.

I felt like this poor little Frey was being ass-raped by Oprah. It made me so mad, as an artist and a writer, to sit and watch her try to take down this poor guy who just wants to live his life and write and make some money doing it all.

And, you know. Who gives a shit if he didn't tell exactly the truth. What puked me out the most, was her uncanny resemblance to George W. Bush, and her inability to see outside her own little safe mulit-million bubble. It seems that anyone who disagrees with Oprah is punished openly on her show. With a creepy chorus of audience memnbers supporting her. It feels like a new McCarthy era all around.

Oprah-- "So, she didn't hang herself"

Frey-- "No, she sliced her wrists."

Oprah sighs. She is clearly upset and "duped" and disturbed.

Me-- "Someone fucking committed suicide Oprah, who really gives a shit. Someone died. It's horrible either way. Why do you give a fuck about the specifics?

YES, ms. kelvis, I am in complete agreeance with you here. Ms. Oprah must be stopped, her sense of power and superiority is getting completely out of hand.

9:04 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger The Editor said...

OK, so we need to agree to disagree here. I was very proud of Oprah coming out and admitting she was had. It took a lot of guts to say she was wrong.

James Frey? I highly suggest you read The Smoking Gun's site on him. To know that he was refused by numerous publishers when he submitted it as fiction is telling. That he chose not to preface the book with some sort of explanation that names/dates/events were changed for whatever reason, that he did interview after interview repeating and adding to the lies... well... And from what I've read of the novel (I hesitate calling it anything but fiction), he's a pretty crappy writer (which explains why it was turned down by publishers when he submitted at fiction).

The mockery here is of all the people out there really trying to beat an adiction who believe in a lie. As Frank Rich opined, the media and the government is so full of half-truths and downright lies being touted as "the real thing," it is not easy to stomach. And with that in mind, I'd like to see the same amount of news/TV time spent on the lies the Bush Administration has been telling the American public as they've spent on this hack James Frey.

9:18 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger The Editor said...

With all due respect Stacy: "poor little Frey?" He's made a shitload of money off his story--including publishing deals and movie deals--and he should answer for himself (as should his publisher... so full of crap that they didn't fact check... that's a publishers or agents JOB). As a reader, I always assume a certain amount of subjectivity from the authors of memoirs. It's their experience. But to knowingly and willingly lie...? Frankly, I think Frey is a squirrely little weasle and a bad writer. If Oprah deserves any criticism, it's for picking Frey's poorly written book in the first place.

9:33 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Kelvis said...

I'm not a writer, I just get paid to do it for tv, so what do I know? I know this. MILLIONS of people read that book and LOVED it. There is a little book club I know of that read that book just because Oprah said to read it. Fine, sheep, whatever. So I hear one of the members saying "OK, so, what's all the fuss about?" Another member says, "it's not true. He lied." First member says, "wait, it was true? I didn't know it was true." Second member says "it was supposed to be a memoir. MEMOIR means it's true."

First member squirrels her face, "so that Geisha book is true?"

See, we must remember that we live in a place where people just blindly consume. I would hazzard a guess that a good portion of the people that read Frey's book didn't pick it up thinking "I'm reading a true story." They picked it up to read a compelling story and that's what they got. I admit I have only read a few excerpts from the book. I have read a lot of the Smoking Gun report. And, at the end of the day, I work in a medium where everything is candy coated. And I have read works by writers claiming to be "memoirs" that I know from first hand personal knowledge are embellished. You all do it. I don't feel sorry for Frey. He's banking the cash and is about to bank more thanks to Oprah's tirade. I am just discouraged that Oprah chose to waste an hour of my time with her jouvenile revenge scheme.

I would write more but LA-B is trying to get my attention by tickling my nose with the cat's tail. Where was he at 3pm today when Oprah was wasting my time?

10:16 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger The Editor said...

Oprah didn't waste your or any television viewer's time. There's an off switch to the TV. Bull Oh'Really rarely wastes my time because I have a channel changer and the ability to block FOX from my TV.

After reading the first few pages of Frey's book, I was so dismayed by the quality of the writing, I put it back on the shelf. Time wasted: 5 minutes. No need to torture myself.

As Miss Snark reminds us: My disgust with this whole foolish mess is not that James Frey lied; it's that no one in publishing caught him, and now that he is caught, no one seems to care. Doubleday is "standing behind their author" according to Publishers Lunch.

Consider this: James Frey would have lost his job at the New York Times if he'd written that story for them. The New Yorker would never have run it. Why? They check things. Fact checkers.


Maybe I should be dissapointed in a public that thinks MacDonald's offers a fine and healthy menu. People LOVE it, so it MUST be good. Americans will swallow anything I guess. I suppose lowering the bar for truth is so commonplace in America that I should overlook cumbersome and annoying things such as facts.

Memoirs of a Geisha was billed as fiction. AMLP was billed as non-fiction. The publishers/agent had a responsability to the readers that the book was TRUE. Frey has been caught in plenty of lies in his book--doesn't it make you wonder if there are more lies in the book that he hasn't been caught in? I'd lay money on it. One of the hallmarks of his "memoir" is the idea that the truth will set you free. But he lies throughout the book. So where does that leave us? I wouldn't believe him if his tongue came notarized.

Like I said before, what saddened me was that Oprah chose such a crappy book for people to read. What pisses me off is that the publishers propagated the lie for profit as did Frey. Yes, its "raw," but it's raw like porn is raw. Sensational comes to mind, not "raw." Sensational--like books by Ann Coulter or about Swift Boats. Sensational--like WMDs.

In a culture where the leader of the free world lies regularly, is caught in the lie, and does his level best to divert attention away from the lie, it was soooooo refreshing for someone in media to say, "I believed the lie and I sold the lie, and I was wrong for doing so." Meanwhile (with the caveat that there is no such thing as bad publicity), Frey is lying all the way to the bank.

Again, I hope the media will soon turn the same amount of attention to the lies our government have been feeding the American public.

11:31 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger -Dave said...

Hi, Had to comment!

I agree with you Kelvis, although I also agree with much of everything "Editor" says as well.

I found myself disgusted with Oprah's ego when I saw the much hyped "prayer vigil" show just after 9/11.

I felt she was taking advantage of the times. It sickened me to see her dressed in white, stand center stage with lights dimmed in a soft spotlight, leading the prayers.

I have loathed her ever since.I admit I have watched her shows on occasion since (just to fuel my rage for her...I'm like that).

Oprah should be shamed, not by Frey's embellished memoirs but because of her insulated life and how she has made this about her.

What made me so furious with the Oprah- Frey show was the obvious "spin" control it was. As she vomited her feelings of betrayal and her commitments to truth and honesty, I thought of Dan Rather.

In a serious and real national scandel, Rather a proven journalist was "duped" as Oprah so said she was. He professionally addressed it and moved on.

It lead to his retirement.

He did not take an hour to attack his source, he did not mention any of his staff & producers getting swept up in excited e-mails leading to the cause.

Oprah has taken this... who will care in 6 months moment... and has spun it into a national tragedy and a matter of journalistic integrity.

I love she has made sure every book in the future on her "book club" list be given national focus to avoid this scandel again. As her "book club" book now was mentioned on the Frey show.

I love how she has put a major publishing company on defense thus making herself the lord high public faced omnipotent executive book editor for all publishers to get blessings from.

I love how I saw a whole display of books labled "oprah's book club"
standing at the front door when I walked in to Barnes and Nobles the other day.

We are doomed.

2:36 PM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger The Editor said...

But still folks, you are shooting the messenger. You may not like the way she delivered the message, but hey, that's the the way the cookie crumbles.

10:33 PM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Joe Powell said...

The product called "Oprah" is a maketing genius and the recent faux drama will sell more books for Frey and bring her ratings up a point or two. When she gave away free cars to audience members, no one complained she was adding pollution to global warming.
And books, like TV, are at best a collection of entertaining fictions, aren't they?
As for the promotion of reading or literacy goes, writer Kurt Vonnegut was asked once what type of books he would encourage Americans to read and he replied "Anything. Read the back of the box of cereal you eat in the morning, that's a good place to start."

6:58 AM, January 28, 2006  
Blogger Joe Powell said...

One more thought to ponder, this from a quote by H.L. Mencken:

"The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth - that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one."

8:59 AM, January 28, 2006  
Blogger the IMAGINATIVE ACTION REGIME said...

whoah. watch-out editor. i'm staying out of the ring.

yikes.

kelvis, keep on rocking your view. this is good. fires errupting.

dave keep being brilliant.

joe, there's only error. that's all that's certain.

6:32 PM, January 30, 2006  

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