For some reason I had to process this whole James Frey and Oprah thing for 24 hours before expressing myself on it. Now I feel ready.
I read A Million Little Pieces in the fall and loved it. I blogged about it. I talked about it. It’s a phenomenal book. It remains a moving work of art about the unique challenges of drug and alcohol addiction. What apparently has been proven is that it is not a memoir.
Watching James Frey on The Oprah Show yesterday — a benefit of my feeling under the weather, I suppose — I felt very bad for him. I think Oprah was right for the most part, but I couldn’t help but feel he was taking the whole rap for something he was only partly responsible for. He had originally shopped it as a novel with little success. Someone, somewhere must have made some “marketing” suggestions to nudge it along to potential bestseller.
That doesn’t mean I condone the extent to which Frey played with some of the facts in his book or that that absolves him of responsibility. It just makes me feel sad for him. Regardless of any embellishments, what he went through in rehab was heartwrenching and grueling and now he’s made a better life for himself. Sad.
As for Oprah, I was already a fan but I gained immense respect for her. When New York Times columnist Frank Rich lauded her for her turnaround, she quickly said she didn’t want kudos. She was no nonsense and clear and then she dropped it. Richard Cohen, the Washington Post columnist who had ripped into her in a column, sat on her stage seemingly dumbfounded that this woman would have him on her show after he criticized her so roundly. I loved all the honesty on that stage.
It was, as Rich said, “great TV.”