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A million little insights

April 30, 2008

Appearing in the new Vanity Fair is a terrific piece by Evgenia Peretzon on James Frey, yes, the ridiculously demonized author of A Million Little Pieces.  Given that their very association with an author is to ultimately produce a book that makes as much money as possible, by appealing to the maximum audience attainable, the complicity nearly every agent, editor and publisher shares in crafting the end result should never be underestimated.  Particularly with regards to the “memoir” genre so popular today.

From the article, perhaps Norman Mailer put it best in a conversation with Frey:

They sat down on the couch and talked about memoirs, a genre, Mailer said, that was by definition corrupt: “That’s why a writer writes his memoir, to tell a lie and create an ideal self. Everything I’ve ever written is memoir, you know, is an inflated vision of the ideal Platonic self.”

Read the full article here.

–msg

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3 comments

  1. Great article. I’ve always wondered how we can expect memoirs to be ‘absolute truths’ – how can anyone remember their life with that much accuracy? And for all of the Freys and Defonsecas, etc. of today who ‘got caught’, how many memoirs written long ago by fascinating people were really just a pack of gorgeous lies, made possible because no one had the resources to expose them?


  2. Great point, Gayle. Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography, Samuel Pepys’ diary, who knows if either could stand up to factual scrutiny if written today. They’re still about the best and most entertaining ever published.


  3. “Given that their very association with an author is to ultimately produce a book that makes as much money as possible, by appealing to the maximum audience attainable, the complicity nearly every agent, editor and publisher shares in crafting the end result should never be underestimated. Particularly with regards to the “memoir” genre so popular today.” (-msg)

    MSG’s assessment is spot-on. I’ll up the ante. In the case metioned, I suspect the current book as part of a cycle of deceit:

    1) Fake a memoir
    2) Get caught
    3) Redeem oneself with a real novel

    Can this be done without complicity?

    Conversely, I’ll allow the intention of
    an honest memoir with some repeat some false
    memory.
    “Neurosis prevents absolutely accurate memory.”
    -Fritz Perls

    -Michael Thompkins

    Finally, one cannot protest a government that
    produces false memoir and applaud individual
    authors.



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