Thursday, January 12, 2006

Literary Controversy

I caught the Larry King Live interview with James Frey, the writer who has been under fire for embellishing his memoir. I knew that this category of "memoir" would confuse people. I'm glad that this little controversy took place, so there can be a clearer delineation between memoiric writing (taken from one's own memory) and autobiographical writinig (event driven).

Mr. Frey was a gracious guest, simply stating that what was being questioned in his book stood for a mere 5 percent of his story and the central themes of drug and alcohol addiction should take center stage.

This is not the first time books of nonfiction have been questioned: Alex Haley's "Roots" came under fire for historical accuracy and Carlos Bulosan's "America is in the Heart" because his adventures seemed too overwhelming for one person.

The high point of the evening was when Oprah herself called in to stand by her recommendation. I love live TV.

3 comments:

Jason Phoon said...

I've been wanting to read the book , A million little pieces. I'd probably pick it up later.

Sundry said...

Welll...Alex Haley never called his book a memoir. It's catalogued as a novel, so even though it's based on research he did about his family, it was never billed as non-fiction.

I guess, sadly, it's easier to sell non-fiction books than novels. That's the real tragedy here! That some people don't just accept that a good story is worth reading, no matter how close to the facts it sticks.

SarahJ said...

personally i have the impression fiction sells better than non-fiction, except for self-help and business/be a better manager books. interesting question. I'm going to look at the numbers on the NYTimes best-seller list.

And yes, Roots was historical fiction. As long as it's more or less historically "possible," I don't think Alex Haley can be called into account.