Debate and Discussion

James Frey Liar?
kyupol at 9:49PM, Feb. 5, 2006
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http://news.google.ca/news?hl=en&q=a%20million%20little%20pieces&btnG=Google+Search&sa=N&tab=in

Whats the big fuss about this book? So what if he's lying?

The story is entertaining anyway and it gets its point across about all the angst and drug addiction.

I read the book and I LOVED IT and I think its WICKED SICK. If that was a drunkduck comic, I'd make multiple accounts just to “5” every page.

Ok fine. I'll say that everything in actually happened. I have superpowers and I fought an angel when I was 10 and I burned down the forest… and got away with it. And one time, I had lunch in the stinking toilet with a mound of shit and was still able to finish up my food. (Um… exagerrating that one… though I REALLY DID eat my lunch in a bathroom once… it was clean tho…)

:lol: :lol: :lol:
NOW UPDATING!!!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:24PM
Black_Kitty at 10:33PM, Feb. 5, 2006
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There are certain expectations given to certain types of writing. To call a piece of work a memoir suggest two main things:

1. It's not a work of fiction.
2. It's autobiographical in nature.

What's the big fuss about lying? Because it's misleading. If you're going to write an entertaining work of fiction, then at least have the intergrity to be honest about that and actually call it fiction instead of misleading people into thinking everything about it is true.

.: Black Kitty :.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:23AM
Coydog at 10:46PM, Feb. 5, 2006
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Speaking of not-entirely-true biographies in general, here's another personality who comes in for a lickin'

http://www.horsewhispersandlies.com/index.html

This is an answer to Monty Roberts, who authored The Man who Listens to Horses and sold it as non-fiction. Turns out that, like James Frey, he might have been selling a pack of lies and misrepresentations - not neccessarily about how to work with horses, but about his father and members of his family and events in their lives. I had bought that book and read it and members of my family read it, so somebody selling lies as truth does not amuse me one bit. Just as well that I waited ‘till the book was in the discount bin. IF I had paid full price, I would have been fuming.

You have to register and sign in to get access to the ebook that Roberts’ family has put online, but it's a hoot.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:47AM
ozoneocean at 2:06AM, Feb. 7, 2006
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I think people are getting a bit silly about this. Almost all writing is fiction. The only totally factual books you commonly get are technical manuals, books of statistics… that kind of thing. And even those can have quite a bit of fiction! Technical manuals can be very unreliable…

Yes, well, non-fiction is nothing, nothing at all but a label you put on a book in order to sell it. Just like Sci-fi, fantasy, travel, cooking, whatever! In the old days books didn't have these categories and labels, they were just stories. The modern publishing industry has created these conventions, don't be misled by them!
Sure, you expect a ‘non-fiction’ book to be true, or have some SIGNIFIGANT element of truth, but that's just part of its appeal. To really expect “non-fiction” to accurately reflect reality is really sort of pathetic… almost sad in a way. It's like the last Santa-Claus for adults: “No, don't say it's not real! I want to believe!”

You still get the same thrill, if you really enjoy a book. I mean, come on, the idea “that it's true” affects nothing but your personal perceptions of what's happening in your own head; the story is still the same. If you want to quote from a biography or autobiography, don't expect it to have any more weight than a quote from “fiction”. If you really want to learn about a historical event or figure, do what real historians do and look through correspondence, statistics, news stories, all the accounts of those involved etc, and sift through it for what is most likely to be true. If you want entertainment, read a book.

I heartily approve of “lies” and extravagant claims in autobiographies, memoirs, biographies, and histories. Makes it more fun ^^
If it wasn’t for that kind of thing, we wouldn’t have the massive bodies of literature that comprise The Bible and the Arthurian romances and stories… The Autobiography of Lawrence of Arabia wouldn’t be nearly as good, and neither would “My Wicked, Wicked Ways” by Errol Flynn. And so it goes on.

But, I'm usually on my own with theses sorts of opinions, I realise that. Or with Kyupol anyway. :-D
I know people really like the idea of “non-fiction” books, and that's fine. I hope you guys find some that have more truth than usual then. I wouldn't hold my breath, but I have nothing against it. Reading preferences and beliefs are a personal thing. :D
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:23PM
Black_Kitty at 3:03AM, Feb. 7, 2006
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That is similar to suggesting that since everybody lies, we might as well stop expecting people to be truthful and fully support fraud since it makes life exciting.

I highly doubt that books did not have categories in the old days. The categories may be slightly different and what is considered acceptable literature at that time differs from what is considered acceptable now, but people do differentiate between fiction and non-fiction.

The arguement that there is no difference between fiction writing and non-fiction writing such as memoirs and biographies is precisely the reason why I have the opinions I earlier expressed. Once you start to accept that certain types of writing do not need to convey truth, then there is no expectations holding authors to do so.

Newspapers operate in a similar fashion and is a good example. While they are not as objective as they may appear (newspapers can be incredibly bias without seeming to be through their use of language alone,) we expect them to be. We expect, even demand, that newspaper objectively rely to us the happenings of the world to the best of their ability. When journalists start making up quotes and fabricating events, they are fired no matter how spicy their articles end up being. If they're not fired, then they risk taking the whole newspaper's reputation and reliability with them.

Once you start accepting newspapers as not being truthful and not hold them to the expectation of objective reporting, you get tabloids. This is why nobody takes tabloids seriously, not even the people who run it.

This can be applied to memoirs and autobiographies. We expect a certain level of truth in memoirs and autobiographies because they're suppose to be an account of the author's own personal experience. They're meant to be a personal record of their life. Once you start making things up, they cease becoming a record of one's own life and start becoming fiction. What is fiction? A literary work based on imagination and fabrication.

If people refuse to accept that there's a difference between personal accounts and works from the imagination, then we're in trouble. This is when books become unreliable. The day there's no difference between fiction and non-fiction is the day you let people like Frey sell you fabrication as truth and actually approve of it.

That is not to say that memoirs and autobiographies must contain absolute truth. It's impossible. We bring to our recollection knowledge that we now have that we didn't have before. We may apply emphasis on certain events over others. We may recollect falsely, fail to notice something or look at the past with rose tinted glasses. But all of these things are acceptable and even expected in memoirs and autobiographies. This is truth to the best of our own personal ability, free from any intent on fabrication. I thought my father was a jerk for yelling at me for trying to make the goldfish take a nap. In retrospective, I realize I was a stupid kid who didn't realize goldfishes can't survive without water and furthermore, did not need to take a nap with me. But this is a conclusion that came years later.

From what I'm understanding of the situation, what Frey did is completely different. He's outright fabricating events that he clearly knew did not occur and then advertising his work of fiction as a memoir. In other words, he lied about (out of all things) his own life and then tried to pass it off as true. At best, he doesn't know what a memoir is. At worse, he's tricking people into buying his work.

But hey, this is just the English major talking. :P While I'm not a big bookworm, I do appreciate it when I'm clear on what I'm reading.

.: Black Kitty :.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:23AM
ozoneocean at 3:48AM, Feb. 7, 2006
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I think the whole category thing started to come into commercial publishing in a big, big way back in the 19th C. Of course it still existed in a more informal way before then, but to readers it didn’t make as much difference as it does today. Today it is just a label for selling books. The “rose tinted glasses” and emphasis thing is exactly what I'm talking about. If you really, really care about history and facts, then you can still find the “truth” the same way you've always been able to. -I know that I hate relying on a single source, even though it's so very tempting sometimes.
People who exaggerate and fabricate wildly are just as much a part of the whole “non-fiction” industry. I don’t say it’s all untrue to the same degree, of course there are different grades: for some it’s just little things, for others it’s considerably bigger. I just think it’s all part of the market, accept it and love it! :D

There have been people who’ve created whole fictional characters around their writing pseudonyms or nom’s de plum, fictional family histories, ethnicities and lives… and then further supported that with their “non-fiction” literature. It’s a gorgeous idea! There have been painters who’ve done it too: People buy their work because of the idea of who the artist is. If people are going to be that facile, I heartily support such fakery. Our very own Matt/Marine created the whole pathetic persona of Princess Jen to gather support for Penis and examine the web-comic audience in the process, I thought that was a marvellous prank ^_^

I remember a few years ago we had an author here in Australia who called herself Susan Dmidenko (or something). She wrote a book based on the experiences of her grandmother in the Ukraine, and about the pogroms and violence against Jews. She won our highest literary prize for it!
But it turned out that she never had a Ukrainian grandmother… Her name wasn’t even Demidenko, she had solidly Irish heritage. People were angry at her and they removed her prize.
-so her book was worthless because she herself wasn’t Ukrainian? “non-fiction” is such a fragile, simple form of literature that without the crutch of universal verifiable veracity, it has no quality?
Well of course not. I think she may have even had the prize returned to her in the end, At least, a lot of people wanted to, once they got over the silliness about her name and origins.

If you’re a student of literature, you’d know about cases like that yourself! Is it scandalous or fun? I personally think it’s fun. :D
That’s not to say I misrepresent myself (that would lead to WAY too many complications “oh what a tangled web…”), but I don’t mind other people playing with the conventions like that.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:23PM
ozoneocean at 4:05AM, Feb. 7, 2006
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Another reason why I wouldn't misrepresent myself is because I'd like to be interesting on my own merits. Hard as that is… But I wouldn't like lies having the possibility to detract from what I've achieved with my work either.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:23PM
isukun at 7:23AM, Feb. 7, 2006
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Stories have been categorized for centuries. Even before biblical times people were able to distinguish between fables and historical accounts. Most cultures at the time even had different terms for stories which were purely fiction and stories which were based on historical or religious events.

I don't consider it “fun” to mislead people or give them false hope. Many people respect non-fiction as actual accounts of real events. They use them for inspiration and guidance. If they aren't based on real events, though, their information is tainted. The emotions and motivations aren't real and the procedures could easily be flawed and could lead people to do things that won't help. They could skew people's views on events in ways that don't represent people who have actually been through such times.

.: isukun :.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
Black_Kitty at 10:09AM, Feb. 7, 2006
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ozoneocean
If you’re a student of literature, you’d know about cases like that yourself! Is it scandalous or fun? I personally think it’s fun. :D
That’s not to say I misrepresent myself (that would lead to WAY too many complications “oh what a tangled web…”), but I don’t mind other people playing with the conventions like that.

House of Leaves is a book that plays with conventions. It features unusual page layout and style, make use of the book as a physical object and plays on the notion of academic criticisim. But it never lied about what it was or mislead people into thinking it's one thing when it really is another. You don't need to when reinventing or playing with conventions.

I don't buy the idea that Frey is reinventing or playing with conventions. To me, it sounds like a thief telling me that he's simply reinventing the notion of ownership. Or a con artist telling me that he's reinventing the notion of reality and perception of truth. Much like I do not feel that the con artist and the thief is honest in intent, I do not feel Frey is either.

It was 6 AM so maybe I was too wordy or unclear but I think you're confusing the difference between a historical account and a personal account and why the two, while different, is still expected to hold a reasonable degree of truth.

Historical accounts are read for its factual truth. Personal accounts on the other hand, is read for its personal truths. And while we generally accept that recollection and retrospectives can be flawed, we expect authors to be as truthful as possible. We assume that when a person writes a memoir or an autobiography, they are trying to relate to us their own personal accounts of what happened in their life and their view of it. If I wanted to read about the factual truth of that person, I'll read his birth certificate, credit history and police records.

For that reason, rose tinted glasses and personal emphasis are acceptable primarily because there is personal truth within it. We read memoirs and autobiographies because we want to hear that person's own recollection of their personal history. Much like how we read Elie Wiesel's Night not because we want to know if the Holocaust really happened but because we want to read a personal account of someone who was actually in a concentration camp and the personal impact it had on that particular person.

There is no personal truth in knowingly fabricating events and leading people into thinking that it really happened. Lying and tricking people into thinking that false events really happened is not what a memoir or an autobiography is about.

There is danger in accepting that non-fiction does not need to be non-fiction. If you willingly accept that Frey can purposely fabricate and lie in his own memoirs, then it opens the door to lying in a genre that has traditionally been about personal truths. In other words, it becomes okay for people to purposely lie and pretend that it's truth.

And I don't find that delightful or fascinating. I find it appalling in fact because it flies in the face of real memoirs and autobiographies. Frey could have put his work out as a work of fiction but yet he chose to put it out as a memoir probably knowing full well what it means. If Frey's goal was to purely entertain, then he could have done that by selling his work as a piece of fiction. But he didn't and one questions what honest reason you could have for selling lies as truths.

.: Black Kitty :.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:23AM
Coydog at 12:34PM, Feb. 7, 2006
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And if the person in question is trying to sell something along with his ‘non-fiction’ - like a product or a process or a body of knowledge, it could have dangerous consequences. Frey, I don't think, is trying to sell anything besides his book (if he were actually selling detox/counselling services that would be another matter), but Monty Roberts has clinics, services and merchandise that he flogs everywhere he goes. Most real professional horse people, including legitimate “natural horsemanship” practitioners, want nothing to do with him - not out of jealousy, but because his methods are known to leave some dangerous gaps in the development and training of horses - large, powerful, high-strung animals, and are often sold as a panacea to desperate amateurs who have found themselves with horses that have deep-seated behavioral problems. In both cases, turn your BS filter on high and caveat emptor.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:47AM
mykill at 1:37PM, Feb. 7, 2006
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Well, the book argues that it's possible to beat drug addiction without a 12 step program or analogous assist - so it poses a threat to an establishment.

In the context of suggesting the book ‘factual’ it also condemns in a general way the professionals who are made to look exceptionally cruel or malicious in the book.

That the author apparently was able to beat drug addictions without a whole lot of drama is in many ways a more powerful argument against 12 step and associated programs thought to be essential (tobacco is more addictive than heroin, how many people require a 12 step program to beat THAT?).

The author fucked up, if he's going to fictionalize his experiences - it should be presented as such.

Think of it this way, you get rear ended in a car by a careless driver who is in the wrong and have to wear a neck brace for 6 months.

The next year, the guy who rear ended you has authored a book presented as a factual autobiography - and in this book you are driving an SUV, fueled with road rage and intentionally run the author off a cliff - wherein the author's car explodes moments after the author crawls from the wreckage with 6 broken ribs, a leg broken in three places, and a hairline fracture in the neck.

How do you feel? How do you think the real people accused of horrors they didn't do in an ‘autobiography’ feel?

I think the people accused of abusing the author should be entitled to take the author and do every goddamned thing to him the author claims to have experienced.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:09PM
ccs1989 at 1:48PM, Feb. 7, 2006
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He should have said ‘Based on a true story’. That always works.

However I think he's a pretty f-ed up guy. He shouldn't have done what he did. I'm not going to elaborate in another way other than the fact that he passed lies off as genuine truth. And that's not good.
http://ccs1989.deviantart.com

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:37AM
Coydog at 1:50PM, Feb. 7, 2006
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12-step programs do help some people, but they're definitely no panacea.

And I WOULD be royally pissed if somebody wrote me in as a road-rage behemoth from hell when it was no more than a fender bender in the parking lot at Wal-Mart.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:47AM
ozoneocean at 8:41PM, Feb. 7, 2006
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It depends on weather you take the content of novels that seriously. Novels are primarily written to be published and sold so that they can entertain. If I want “truths” I will not read a novel… Personal accounts based on memory will always have a fragile basis in truth, that’s just part of the science of communication.
The important thing about novels is their literary value, not knowledge. We already have real stores of knowledge, we always have. I think part of the problem is that people are taking literary entertainment far too seriously… People do the same with sports entertainment; the wrestling is real, if my soccer team doesn’t win I’ll kill someone… That sort of thing.

If you want to know the best way to train horses, or get off drugs, don’t read a novel! You learn from someone who actually does it, you go and get counselling, whatever. If you rely on any novel for truths like that then you’re being a bit silly in my opinion.

I wasn’t really talking about “conventions” in a general sense, I was specifically talking about the convention of categories and labels (non-fiction, SciFi etc.).

As for someone misrepresenting you in an autobiography and that being a really nasty thing to do, well that happens ALL the time! Autobiographies are renowned for that sort of thing.

This stuff about “selling lies as genuine truth” is getting a bit much… No novel is about genuine truth. If you are after that, don't read novels! And even this fellow's exaggerations are a lot more common than you might think. It’s far more nasty to demonise a simple novelist than it is for him to write his story… Really, you’d almost think he'd published a few cartoons depicting Mohammed with a bomb on his head…
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:23PM
Black_Kitty at 9:19PM, Feb. 7, 2006
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I don't think I'm being uptight or taking things too seriously by expecting people to not lie to me. I have no problem with fiction being products of imagination or fiction as a form of entertainment. I think that people are underestimating novels by suggesting that they aren't capable of didactic purposes but hey, to each their own.

The problem is that Frey never advertised his book as a work of fiction. He advertised it as a work of non-fiction. If we want to be nitpicky about words, he wasn't passing it off as a novel. He was passing it off as a memoir.

Whether you consider non-fiction as actually being non-fiction is your own personal choice. However, the reality is that the majority of the people in this world do differentiate between fiction and non-fiction and as such, approach them differently. This isn't recent development, people have been doing that for a very long time.

Just because there are people out there who lie about their fictional work being non-fiction doesn't mean that what Frey did is okay. Lots of people steal everyday but theft still isn't condoned. If Frey had been honest from the beginning, I couldn't care less what he wrote but he wasn't and it bothers me that people think I'm silly for minding.

.: Black Kitty :.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:23AM
ozoneocean at 7:32AM, Feb. 8, 2006
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Well Bk, as you say: ‘to each their own’. I said back there that I'm in the tiny minority with my views on non-fiction, so you don't have to worry about people thinking you're silly- and it doesn't matter what I think because I hold all kinds of crazy views no one agrees with, and I accept that. :D

So to me the fellow is ok for what he wrote and what he claimed, to the rest of you guys he's done something decidedly uncouth. I can see why you feel that way of course, but I don't.

Ah well, I'll never actually read his book anyway. :)
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:23PM

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