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All stories relating to James Frey


Book links round-up: gospel according to Frey, Pulitzer punk, and more

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Daily links round-up: Free Kindles, James Frey, and more

Sundry links from around the Web:

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Book biz round-up: Anna Porter on the “shaky state” of Canadian publishing, and more

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Daily book biz round-up: Gawker/Palin flap; Bishop-Stall’s U.S. tour; and more

Today’s book news:


James Frey vs. Oprah: Frey strikes back

Bright Shiny Morning, the third book by Oprah-blacklisted author James Frey, is arriving in paperback next week with an added passage that seems to be based on Frey’s appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show three years ago. The book, which focuses on the lives of several L.A. “lost souls,” includes the following paragraph, which was omitted from the original hardcover edition. From the Guardian:

He went on the show. It wasn’t what he was told it was going to be. He got berated, yelled at, booed, scolded, lectured, humiliated. He knew there was no way to stop it, or defend himself, so he went along with it. Some people said he deserved it, some said he didn’t, he understood both sides of the argument. It got covered live. It was the lead story on the evening news, ahead of the war, the political shooting, the continued disintegration of Middle Eastern governments.

The character continues by explaining that after his appearance on the show he began taping all of his phone calls, including those with the show’s host:

They talked for almost an hour. What she told him directly contradicted all of her public statements. She told him a story about her life before she was famous, about some mistakes she made. She told him a story about a book she wrote, and about what was in it, and about why she decided to halt the publication of it, and who helped her make the decision. He taped everything. Someday he might tell his side of it. Someday he might play the tapes. Someday.

When questioned about the new section by the New York Post, Frey laughed and said: “The book is fiction. Interpret it however you want.”

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James Frey, Bible-writer

In an attempt to extend his already overextended 15 minutes of fame, James Frey will be putting his factual-fictive writing style to use to write the third book of the Bible.

From the Guardian:

“It’s the third book of the Bible, called The Final Testament of the Holy Bible,” he told interviewer and fellow author Stephen Elliott. “My idea of what the Messiah would be like if he were walking the streets of New York today. What would he believe? What would he preach? How would he live? With who?”


Frey said his version would see Jesus living with a prostitute. “It doesn’t matter how or who you love. I don’t believe the Messiah would condemn gay men and women,” he said. Judas, meanwhile, would be the “same as he was two thousand years ago”, a “selfish man who thinks of himself before the good of humanity, who values money more than love.”

Sounds like a holiday bestseller in the making.

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Bookmarks: hybrid readers, seasonal reading, and more

  • James Frey was an intern for a day at Readers were invited to post questions for him — Oprah jokes and inquiries about his fact-checking process ensued
  • What’s your seasonal reading pattern? Molly Flatt at the Guardian blogs about the books we choose as the seasons change
  • Hugh McGuire at the Huffington Post asks what will happen when the generation of hybrid readers — people who live in a digital world, but grew up reading books — dies out

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Still more Frey

Remember when Vanity Fair ran a long piece on James Frey earlier this year, just before the release of Frey’s “first” novel Bright Shiny Morning?

Now he would just as soon forget the whole mess. He fears and loathes the media. He has been press shy since his January 2006 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and doesn’t plan to speak to the press again after this interview.

Well, if you believed that, you may be interested in purchasing one of several bridges we have for sale here at the Quill labs.

And indeed, as The Independent wrote late last month, the once-disgraced author “has popped up in a series of surprisingly sympathetic newspaper, magazine, radio and television interviews.” A recent Canadian example includes this Maclean’s Q&A, in which Frey discusses the venom his new book inevitably faces:

I’m a human being and I feel things. Sometimes comments made about me hurt me, but at the same time there’s nothing I can do about them. You accept them. You accept the good and you accept the bad. It doesn’t mean I’m going to let them affect what I do or how I do it. I have no interest in fighting anybody, and I’m perfectly comfortable with my position as sort of an outsider. I’m not begging to be part of anything. I’m going to write my books and hopefully people read them and hopefully people enjoy them. That’s what matters.

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David Sedaris: survivor

A new collection of David Sedaris essays – entitled When You Are Engulfed in Flames – comes out next week, and Entertainment Weekly has used the opportunity to check in with the humorist and to find out how he survived all those accusations of “reportorial inaccuracy” that dogged James Frey and Augusten Burroughs, et al.

If you ask Sedaris, the Frey backlash, culminating in a public shaming by Oprah Winfrey, was overblown. ”His punishment outweighed his crime,” says Sedaris. ”I don’t recall Oprah Winfrey calling George Bush a liar when he was on her show. And those lies cost thousands of people their lives.”

So to get back to that question he always gets from the crowd: As he’s strip-mined his own North Carolina upbringing and subsequent adulthood, how much has Sedaris himself made up? Plenty, he has frequently and cheerfully confessed. But it doesn’t matter because he’s a humorist, right? The New Republic begged to differ last spring. In an article titled ”This American Lie” by Alex Heard, TNR accused Sedaris of doing more than just stretching the truth. ”With some of his stories, especially the early ones, like in Naked,” says Heard, ”he’s taken every liberty a fiction writer [does]. It makes the story very funny, but also makes it something you shouldn’t call nonfiction.” Responds Sedaris: ”I’ve said a thousand times I exaggerate. Why is it news when somebody else says it?”

Some of the sleuthing Heard did seems solid, including, for example, getting Sedaris to confirm that he invented details of encounters with mental patients in 1970. But many a bizarre situation checked out true, and Heard’s contention that Sedaris’ work amounts to a mean-spirited exploitation of his family and others seems, well, grossly exaggerated. Sedaris’ Little, Brown publisher, Michael Pietsch, shrugs off Heard’s piece as ”a ludicrous exercise” that ”ignores a great American literary vein of essays in which great writers take liberties with their personal experiences.”

But the more pressing question is: how much longer will Sedaris be able to mine his personal life for stories? As the EW article points out:

[...] fame and scrutiny change things, including audience perceptions, and Sedaris worries that success may be dulling his outsider-loser edge. Maybe nibbling at his credibility, too. The withering assessments of his own lunacies haven’t diminished, but the events are tamer and backdrops fancier: swanky hotels, the first-class section of an airplane. ”I don’t know if I’ll get away with it,” says Sedaris. ”I’m trying to write about what’s happening to me now. So there I am sitting in first class, right? I don’t know if people will say, ‘F— you, I never get to sit in first class!”’


One last time ’round with James Frey

Vanity Fair has an interview with A Million Little Pieces author James Frey – his first major one since his notorious appearance on Oprah’s show in 2006, and his last for a while, at least according to Vanity Fair. The magazine – as is its right – pumps up the “butterfly broken on the wheel” aspect of the story and comes on like a 1930s noir tell-all:

The story of what really happened with A Million Little Pieces has not been told in its full complexity. Owing to a non-disclosure agreement between Frey and Random House (which owns Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, the imprint that published it), neither he nor the publishing house can speak about what happened. But an investigation by Vanity Fair suggests that the story is significantly more complicated than Man Cons World. There were no fake Web sites, no wigs worn, no relatives pretending to be spokesmen for nonexistent corporations. It is the story, first, of a literary genre in which publishers thought they had found the surefire recipe for success, but one with such dangerously combustible ingredients that it could explode at any moment. On the one hand, memoirs have often been afforded a certain poetic license to stray from absolute truth in the interest of storytelling. On the other, they have the appeal of the real. Over the years, the marketplace hungered for more of both. Give us more drama! And tell us it’s all true! The publishing world responded, pumping up both. It was inevitable that one day the mixture would blow up in someone’s face. Frey had the right story to tell, the talent to get heard, the soaring ambition, and the right professional champions hungry for a hit.

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