Larry King and James Frey

So I was fortunate enough to catch the James Frey interview on Larry King Live last night.  When the camera first panned to Frey, the poor guy looked like a deer caught in headlights.  I seriously felt for the guy and am glad it wasn’t me.

The interview wasn’t what I had hoped.  My expectations were that Frey would arm himself with enough documentation to at least disprove a small portion of TSG’s allegations.  Rather, James had prepared a statement (a statement that he made at least a dozen times throughout the interview) that he stands by his book and his life and that a relatively small portion of certain truths in the book were altered or changed to protect names, for literary reasons, etc.James Frey Doubleday Photo

So honestly, I was a little disappointed.  While I think James is right; even if every questionable detail in the book was proven to be false, the story is about drug and alcohol addiction and this portion of the story remains unchanged, I also think there’s something to be said about how this impacts the rest of the story and even portions of the next book. 

For me, this book was not completely about drug and alcohol addiction — I’ve lived that life.  Been there, done that. My interests were in how James has taken these experiences and written them into bestselling works and of course, how he has managed to convey the addict lifestyle (practicing or not) to those who are otherwise completely unaware.  His writing style, his ability to recall certain details, and his ability to flatly lay out such profound introspect — these are the things that kept me interested and kept me reading.  I would love, love to write a book about my experiences with Heroin, but there’s not a snowball’s chance that I’d be able to recall any such idea or details, let alone come close to what James has accomplished.

To now learn that one side of Frey’s spectrum was not as deeply far-seeded as I had originally thought makes little difference in my appreciation of James’ abilities.  What does bother me about this is that I’m now left curious about parts of his latest work, My Friend Leonard.  I liked this one better, personally.  This book is less about drug addiction and more about life, but now I’m questioning some of my favorite aspects in the story line.  So I guess my question to James is, if this latest book is a work of fiction or classified as a memoir?

James Frey Mug ShotI was definitely surprised to hear from the Larry King/Frey interview that certain things quoted and reprinted on the website of TSG were supposedly relayed by Frey in confidence and off the record.  This means TSG is asking me to trust the word of an organization that already proves themselves to be untrustworthy.  I’ve always been a big fan of TSG and think it’s unfortunate they’re unwilling to play by the same rules they’re out to protect. 

I think James bringing his mother on Larry King was a big mistake.  I would’ve much rather heard from his publisher or editor rather than what I already and immediately know is going to be a supportive word from a family member.  Is your mother going to appear with you on a national program and saying anything unbiased? 

I also think James’ repeated refusal to respond to specific TSG allegations made him look bad.  While I can understand that Frey has everything to lose by responding, it’s that very reason that I personally find his refusal troubling.

My biggest disappointment was Frey’s comment that he would never write about himself again.  This is also sends out a questionable message, in my humble opinion, and I’m definitely sorry to hear it if not simply for the selfish reason of not being able to read another ‘My Friend Leonard’ or ‘A Million Little Pieces’.  Only time and new works will tell…

Finally, Oprah’s call into the show in support of the book was well-timed, waiting until Frey’s position was made and then making her statement, “Although some of the facts have been questioned … that underlying message of the redemption of James Frey still resonates with me, and I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read the book.”  I’m definitely curious as to whether or not this will be the only call by Oprah to Frey concerning the book and his appearance on her show.

Ultimately, I’m still a big fan of James Frey.  I think the guy has a lot to offer and I’m definitely impressed that he had the balls to show up on Larry King and defend himself against allegations and organizations that have such significant media backing.  While I’ve never been a subscriber to his theory and message concerning drug and alcohol addiction being simply a weakness and nothing more, I’m definitely a fan of his abilities to leave such things behind and then turn them into pure, solid gold in the process.   Don’t we all wish it on ourselves…

4 thoughts on “Larry King and James Frey

  1. Nothing to do with the issue in point here, but… when you gonna take Butterfly’s link down? (There are probably others on that list, but she’s the first one I saw…)

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  2. I found you on Technorati and I really like your writing and the site in general. I’m not sure if you’re one person or what it means to be a member, but I just wanted to de-lurk and say that I enjoy reading.

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  3. Frey proves my theory that drug addiction is very complicated, and different for each junky. If calling his problem a weakness helps him solve it, fantastic.

    As for the controversy… once a junky always a junky. He grew up lying to keep the internal damage to a minimum, apparently. I’m no shrink but maybe this will help him.

    And how many junkies don’t lie? Big deal. For me, the book didn’t change that much. Didn’t TSG’s Lit teacher mention artistic lisence?

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  4. I’ve already put my two cents in with a post last week but your view had me take another look at the whole thing. I, too, have trouble with Frey’s contention that addiction is but a mere human weakness as I subscribe to the theory of it being a disease brought on by genetic flaws. Addiction runs rampant in my family, on both sides and only a precious few have managed to get clean and not remain an active addict, but all of us would quit if only the desire to do so was the key to abstinance. Also, why didn’t the publisher do a little fact checking before putting this book out as a work of non-fiction? I, being an addict, took this claim with a grain of salt as I know it would be very difficult for me to be 100% accurate about names, dates, events as most of my life has been spent loaded so at the very least, shouldn’t they have put some sort of disclaimer on the book? Finally, I too am a fan and feel ultimely the message is all that is important and what good may come from it. I really feel he is sincere in his desire that his experience help others that suffer our common demon. Bill, did I understand Frey to say he has switched publishers beginning with “My Friend Leonard” and has a deal with them to write two more books?

    Peace,

    Hack

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