Oprah Winfrey created a national bestseller when she nominated A Million Little Pieces for her book club. The book is a memoir about the troubled life of a drug addict and criminal. Unfortunately, the Smoking Gun conducted an investigation that showed the author, James Frey, lied. His book, which portray Frey as (among other things) an ex-con who went on a drug-fueled rampage in Ohio, underwent dental surgery without anaesthetic, and survived a hideous crash that killed two other people, is mostly exagerrated or made-up anecdotes making him seem tougher than he really was. This reminds me of the controversy over Clockers or more appropriately Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Some people are saying, who cares if it's true? I'm not sure I understand that perspective. Obviously the readers care. Certainly Oprah Winfrey cares. Here's a simple question to those doubters: would you have read the book if it hadn't been true? If it didn't matter if the story was true or not, then why call it a memoir? The difference between memoirs and fiction is that truth really happened. And no one can deny that a true story is more compelling than even the best fiction. The same people who would never pick up the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel will rush to pick up a tabloid with Laci Peterson on the cover. That's why the author labeled it a memoir in the first place. I haven't read the book myself, but from what I've read about it, it sounds like the book would be dismissed as a cliche-ridden piece of garbage if it had been sold as a novel. As a memoir, we say "Well, this does sound like a cliche, but it's true, so I'll accept it." At best, it's a well-written novel masquerading as truth. At worst, it's a practical joke played on paying customers. I think it's kind of sad that a writer would resort to this kind of trickery to get published. Next time, try writing a good novel.
Slate's commentary on it: