January 26, 2006, was a truly unique moment in history. It was the day that two distinct and different groups – the New York Literati and the Three O’Clock Daytime Television-Watchers – found themselves side by side on the couch, united by the groundbreaking opportunity to witness a renowned author’s shocking, shameful, nationally-televised fall from grace.
I was still working in publishing on the day that James Frey, recently unmasked as a fraud memoirist, appeared on Oprah to receive what would be one of the world’s most widely-publicized haranguings. When 3:00 PM rolled around, the whole place was like a tomb. Every cubicle and most of the offices were empty. Everyone was crowded into conference rooms, ready to watch the poor guy’s fate unfold in real time.
And now, of course, James Frey is back with more fiction – er, except this time it’s actually being marketed as such.
Frey’s novel, Bright Shiny Morning , comes out today. And according to an early (and, dare I say, irritatingly gimmicky) review by the New York Times’ Janet Maslin, it’s actually pretty good. This news will undoubtedly piss off Frey’s critics , many of whom have been in a constant state of uproar over everything the man has done since it turned out that he actually didn’t spend several months in prison or undergo dental surgery without the benefit of novocaine . The source of their outrage has ranged from Frey’s subsequent book deal with Random House (“How dare he continue to sell his work after that fiasco?!”) to sightings of the author around New York (“How dare he show his face in public?!”)
But whatever you think of Frey, many will agree that his latest is worth checking out. Let’s face it: even when he was faking his memoirs, the man had an undeniable talent for writing. Reviewers who read A Million Little Pieces wrote thousands of words applauding its rawness and realness, begging the question: Does the fact that it was neither raw nor real, and yet convincing enough that even Oprah believed it to be so, make James Frey nothing but a dirty liar?
Or does it make him a fantastic friggin’ storyteller?
You can find out in print today