James Frey Consequences

Oprah and James Frey’s publisher hold author accountable for untruths in his bestselling book, A Million Little Pieces

In The James Frey Timeline, we covered the events leading to the making of the bestseller, A Million Little Pieces, including Oprah’s selection of the book for her bookclub, and the author’s appearance on The Oprah Show in the fall of 2005. Then the controversy broke and James Frey made an appearance on The Larry King Live Show and Oprah called in to support the book’s “emotional truth” as an inspiring tale of redemption.

Oprah later retracted this support on her own show with guests James Frey and publisher Nan Talese, saying “I made a mistake and left the impression that the truth does not matter, and I am deeply sorry about that.”

On the same show, she said to Frey, “It is difficult for me to talk to you because I really feel duped … but more importantly I feel that you betrayed millions of readers.”

Under Oprah’s questioning, Frey admitted that the Smoking Gun article was “pretty accurate.”

(PWDaily article, “Oprah Grills Frey, Talese,” Jan. 26, 2006)

(New York Observer article, “Freyed Tomato,” Feb 2, 2006)

Publisher’s Formal Statement

In an unusual move, James Frey’s publisher issued a Publisher’s Note clarifying its position, which began:

“The controversy over James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces has caused serious concern at Doubleday and Anchor Books. Recent interpretations of our previous statement notwithstanding, it is not the policy or stance of this company that it doesn’t matter whether a book sold as nonfiction is true. A nonfiction book should adhere to the facts as the author knows them.”

The Publisher’s Note was posted prominently on its website, copies were sent to bookstores to put in existing books, and the Note was added to all future copies of the book along with an Author Statement from James Frey.

Many people find this Author’s Statement unsatisfactory, because it appears that Frey is excusing his dishonesty. This is doubly wrong, because he states that his intention in writing his memoir is to help others to change their lives, and in the book he seems to know that true recovery from addiction means telling the truth to yourself and to others.

As a result of a lawsuit, anyone who bought the book as nonfiction before Jan. 26, 2006, is eligible to file for a refund.

Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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