On the line at B&N yesterday, a woman pointed to the 20 percent off James Frey’s A million little pieces:
“Twenty percent off for fiction.”
It was funny and I laughed. Nobody else got it.
Here’s Oprah on James Frey:
“What is relevant is that he was a drug addict . . . and stepped out of that history to be the man he is today and to take that message to save other people and allow them to save themselves,” Winfrey said. “To those who got hope from the book, I say, Keep holding on.” Frey has been under intense scrutiny since The Smoking Gun investigative Web site posted a story Sunday alleging the author had substantially fabricated his criminal record and other aspects of his past in writing about his battle with drugs and alcohol.
To all of us who are working on memoirs the above is both confusing and sad. Why should I keep writing the truth in my memoir? Why don’t I manufacture stories. Of course, dialogue is invented at times. I have my father and a few other people down perfectly; it’s not usually that easy. i constantly work at it.
People who are honest are at a distinct disadvantage in our society. We’re just not sexy enough; we’re not dramatic enough. Our reality show, interesting, painful, honest as it might be isn’t reality show material.
I would have assumed that Oprah would want to “reward” people in our society who have overcome dark places without resorting to manufacturing arrest records. Frey said that he had been too high to remember certain things so he took dramatic license. How is that inspiring? Unless it’s supposed to inspire people to lie; then it is. It’s not just the story but the story’s veracity that should inspire. I could write my story in a month, if I didn’t stop to examine each piece, how I perceive it, what I think the truth is, what I think others thought. All in the name of truly understanding my truth.
There’s an ongoing debate about creative non-fiction. How fictionalized do you go in non fiction? Of course there could be made up scenes and there always is the authors perception of the truth; but that doesn’t include lying, or so I thought. It’s painful to really write truth about ones life. Very painful; and so I try to balance the pain I am re-subjecting myself to with humor. But never with lies.
When I was adopted, my family was lied to. When I was four and my family moved, I would tell my friends that I had been adopted. I was four; I thought it was a good thing and not something to be hid. My parents learned to expect calls from my friends parents asking if I lied. Fit in too well with my family, couldn’t have been telling the truth.
That helped shaped my world view; and my life has been a constant search for truth. I have a condition that wasn’t diagnosed; though they didn’t have a name for it, people knew that conditions like mine existed. But not in my case. Only boys had real learning disabilities then; I must have been lazy and lying when I said that I studied.
Hell, I entered my Junior High and it was as if a big L was put on my chest.
“Pia, nobody here only has one TV set; and everybody has color sets, not black and white.”
The teacher who said that when I was in Eighth Grade then considered everything I said to be suspect. She’s still in the school in a much higher position. It was okay to accuse me of lying; to accuse me of many things. I was heavy, called myself fat but by today’s standards, I was svelte. I was sloppy and couldn’t speak in class because my mouth would become dry.
They couldn’t leave me back or put me in the dumb class; my test scores were too high as were some of my grades. But the teachers could ensure that I suffered and they did. My school’s motto must have been:
“If you can’t pigeon hole them, make them as miserable as possible.”
By tenth grade I was no longer fat; I had a great face. I had friends, but I still had problems. Rather than attempt to deal with them, they would call me a liar. It was difficult enough navigating the world without the faculty at my school making fun of me, and calling me a liar. My school was supposed to be one of the best public schools in the nation. So if I didn’t do well, it wasn’t their fault. Nor were the life long scars that were left.
Have always wondered what it feels like to call a thirteen year old a liar continually; and as a teacher feel that you’re only responsible for teaching the popular, non troubled kids. Do they just think; she’s odd, don’t have to care or worry about her? Or, it’s so frigging obvious that she doesn’t study why should I go out of my way for her? Or, all kids who don’t dress preppy, don’t smile all the time, look scared and sad deserve to be? Endless scenarios here.
When I entered college I couldn’t enjoy my popularity. I thought that I was dreaming it, and that I had committed horrible crimes that would be discovered. Had no idea what the horrible crimes were but I had become so used to being blamed that I just assumed I must have.
I never really got over it; but I functioned. I could easily charm people. Didn’t know why but I could. I was fun, friendly and always willing to take the blame for anything that went wrong.
Writing my book is a constant struggle for many reasons. One in particular is a wish to tell it from my perspective, yet let the reader see how other people perceived me. Not just the bad; but the good. It’s less of a struggle than it once was, but it’s still a struggle.
Our society, in general, is in crisis mode. People shouldn’t be rewarded for lying; Oprah, of all people, should know that.
If lying is supposed to be rewarded then we certainly have the right government.
Hope? How am I supposed to feel hope when it’s the people who fabricate stories who are rewarded? When the people who committed real crimes get the great book deals?
Ironic moment: I might write dark posts and and not seem to be a team player, but I truly feel happiness whenever anything good happens to anybody I know. Anybody. Don’t expect other people to feel the same way or to understand. Nor do I expect other people to understand why I believe that I must be true to my vision, and that vision includes the good, bad and ugly, but never making up stories to enhance my story
I don’t want to be depressing, but once again I woke up to a throbbing tooth ache– the pain can last up to a week. Hesitate to take the pain relievers because they leave me wiped out.
Yeah I was disappointed yesterday. I will live.
My standards are high; my blog sometimes even meets them. But I have never inflicted my standards onto others. Frey’s book is making me rethink this. Why do I constantly give other people– personally known and unknown to me, free passes, but inflict misery on myself.
I have struggled with the truth v lies my whole life. My parents didn’t tell me about the calls from my friends parents but I found out. To be branded as a liar at four isn’t easy to live with. Yet I had a mostly great childhood up until age ten. And I always was the eternal optimist; always thought that people would accept me tomorrow. I think of myself as an eleven, twelve and thirteen year old wanting so desperately to be accepted. Actually I did smile. I struggled to think of things to talk about at the school bus stop; and would begin to talk. That would give Janey Freedman and Linda Stein reason to urge Marty Friedman to throw me into the bushes.
Never told my parents. Hated Janey, Linda and Marty but even after I lost weight and began to be accepted I would make excuses for their behavior; it all fell back to me. I was weird; weird kids are fair game to be teased, taunted, thrown and talked about. I always did the forgiving; I was always understanding. I knew I was a bad person who deserved to be treated badly; yet I also knew that I was smart, funny, and deserved to be happy.
If teachers condoned the four “T”s then every adult would; I was doomed. When I stopped caring about being accepted, acceptance came. The 40 pound weight loss didn’t hurt either. I’m positive it only took six weeks to gain all the weight, in seventh grade, after we had moved. I know it took me six weeks to lose it in tenth grade. Remember every day of it. The last five and then more took longer, but I was only losing more weight because it was the Twiggy era.
Kind of knew a girl with breasts, a defined waist and hips couldn’t look like her. Have some of the clothes from then; my sister and I look at them in awe. She was supposed to be the skinny one, but my clothes, empirical proof, are in smaller sizes then hers were.
Have a muslin with ribbon dress I bought when I spent the summer in Oaxaca; it’s for a truly tiny person. Yet I wore it all the time, and no it hasn’t shrunk!
Our perceptions of ourselves can be so far off the mark. I had very heavy periods always; and was totally hormonal from the time I was nine, two years before the first one. I have written that there’s been a color coded alert system among my friends for decades before the terrorist ones. It ranged from:
Bright red; don’t even try to speak to her
Red: attempt to call her; don’t worry she won’t depress you because she won’t speak
Bright pink: have a conversation with her
Pink: ask her to do something; she will and be very snarky in a good way
Light Pink: she’s the true self she can only be up to ten days a month
That code was for my adulthood. Imagine being a twelve year old in 1963 when nothing was none about hormones. Everybody knew that period problems were in your head. Especially the gym teacher who morphed into the secretary in The Beverly Hillbillies Add learning disabilities and undiagnosed problems that were considered to be laziness, unwillingness, and resistance to being adopted. Try knowing that you’re right and attempting to explain how you feel to teachers and doctors and have most of them tell you the above.
The incredible things that happened to me in the later part of high school, began to peak at my first college and lasted felt great and were wonderful. Then one day my world began spinning out of control; had periods that lasted half the month, became dramatically underweight, and loved that one; tested for learning disabilities, found out I had so many I shouldn’t have been a tenth as successful as I was. There were the alphabet soup diagnoses and the “there’s something wrong but damned if we know what it is.”
I felt as if I were back in Fifth grade when my parents took me to NYU Medical Center for testing. The results were “inconclusive.” Don’t ask what that means have no idea, and called NYU the year I had the testing as a child. The records had been thrown out just the year before.
When I was an adult the problems weren’t put back onto me; everybody, with the exception of the learning disability testing psychologist treated me as a bright successful adult who had somehow overcome much. Some even acted in awe of me.
But I hung onto each word the testing psychologist said as I had never quite trusted my outer shell and had always expected to be discovered for a fraud
When I met my birth mother when I was 38, and she spent the weekend calling me “her mistake,” and didn’t want to be seen in public with me because I was her shame, her birth daughter who shouldn’t have been born, I knew each good year of my life had been the mistake. Yes my perceptions were off; but everybody knows how perceptive and insightful I was. People said that I was both; it was in all my work evaluations, so I really must have been a fraud.
Damn yes this is a contradiction. True contradictions are ones of perceptions and feelings. The ones that should send a red flag to people are contradications when a person answers a question already asked in a different way, with a different answer, gaps in story, always placing blame for not remembering on external forces and all variations of that.
People tend to judge all contradications as falsehoods when perceptions alter a story. I’m not sure that I know how to explain this properly. I have always known how to discern the two types of contradictions which is why I had to do all the temp project hiring at my job after the one for Summitt, but I hadn’t thought about this subject in depth until last night.
By condoning James Frey’s story, Oprah Winfrey did a horrible thing to all people who write in truth and in search of truth. After the oral surgery before this one I came home to a comment that said my life was devoid of any purpose. Upon thinking about it, yes the Aspergers might have made me overreact, but I’m glad that I did.
My life has always been about purpose, working for the better good, stepping out of the limelight to let another more deserving person have it. Never again; I am just as deserving as anbody else; and probably a lot more than James Frey. If we live in a society where truthtelling is frowned upon, and bravado stories are treated as the ideal, then I would stay in bed for the rest of my life.
As I have no desire to do that, and seem to be permanently glued to my computer, I am going to work; really work to make truthtelling acceptable. Not for pure motives anymore but because I deserve validation, which I get so much of from Courting, but the validation I mean will come with money since that seems to be the only validation that makes people take note, and I very much like money.
That will also be my vindication, as I’m tired of going out of my way so much to understand other people’s views. I’m tired of believing other people to be more worthy than I am because they don’t have my problems, but they also don’t have my advantages. Think that one is way stupid. Then I would become filled with rage when people who didn’t work as hard, didn’t do as good a job would say get the glory for a solution I had thought up, and did the majority of the work on.
I really believed that my memoir had a good chance. But when Oprah condoned James Frey she changed the rules, because every publisher wants the Oprah stamp of approval. Would love to be prove wrong.
Again, I’m not interested in empathy or sympathy.
I am interested in peoples feelings about lies in non-fiction because I do think it reflects a greater societal problem which as far as I’m concerned Oprah Winfrey just made herself part of.