Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Million Little Lies and Overstated PR?

I was sent the following lines in a press release from the Santa Barbara Barbara Book Festival:

The memoir market has exploded over the past few years. Everyone wants to tell their story. The discussion of James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces, has raised numerous issues about the writing of memoir. How can a writer know if his memories are real or a figment of his creative imagination? How do writers deal with gaps in their memory and how does one decide what to include or omit from their memoirs?

These are some of the topics that will be discussed on the panel, “Memoir: Where Memory Meets Imagination” on September 29th, 2007 at the 9th Annual Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival held at 12:30 in the Mural Room of The County Courthouse.

The panel will be moderated by Santa Barbara author and UCSB Extension writing instructor, Diana Raab, author of the newly-released memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal.

I appreciate them including me and hope many of you consider taking part in the festival as Ms. Raab has nothing to do with this post and I am sure she has a great book -- but are the festival PR reps understating Frey's culpability? Here's a six-page treatise from Smoking Gun entitled A Million Little Lies. Our kind-of-very-own Oprah laid into him on her show as he had clearly duped her as well.

Aren't memories real and not a figment of our "creative" imagination? I think most of us could tell the difference....

Last week, Frey was offered a new book deal for a "fiction" piece for an undisclosed sum....only in America can you be skewered like Martha Stewart, have a pay day and be in the New York Times a year later.

At least the NY Times did a bit of research -- here's the last paragraph:
Reached by telephone before the announcement, Mr. Frey denied rumors that he had sold a short story collection, saying, “I have never written a short story in my life.”

But Mr. Frey published a short story last fall in a catalog for an exhibition by Malerie Marder, a Los Angeles-based artist.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still waiting for the "Political Play of the Week"...been doing a bang up job so far of providing deep insight and judgement! Tell us again Mr. Citizen Stringer why Helene was so wise to take ownership of the Light Blue Line project?

9/23/2007 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact, fiction, who cares? Just blame the writer, even if it's yourself. James Frey should have just claimed he was misquoted. Seems to work around here when prominent people see something in print they don't like seeing.

9/23/2007 1:07 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

12:33 pm -- should be soon -- CS works on their own and I have no idea when it's coming!

9/23/2007 3:20 PM  
Anonymous allegro805 said...

By these standards, Proust should be "skewered" for Swann's Way, as should scores of other literary and historical figures whose "memoirs" surely blur the line between "fact" and fiction. Reference or research the concept of "biomythography" coined by Audre Lorde, as well as the general concept of comparative historiography.

As for "culpability", I think the press release is only trying to say that the Frey case re-ignited this issue. He didn't invent the wheel as far as "creative" memoirs are concerned. How much castigation would be sufficient for you? I hear Katharine Hepburn's "autobiography" didn't mention her apparent same-sex love affairs -- is the untruth of omission more acceptable than a blatant falsehood or "embellishment"? I'm not sure. Are you? Who gets to "write history"?

There's a world of difference -- or should be -- between "journalism" and the art of memoir. Part of the problem is a certain modern societal obsession with so-called "fact" and an Enlightenment-rooted fixation on "irrefutable science." Maybe it would be a good idea to actually attend this panel to hear what's discussed?

This whole Frey debacle was ludicrous and this argument already played out ad nauseam quite some time ago. Good for him for getting a book deal, if he's in fact a good wordsmith.

9/24/2007 10:43 AM  

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