I was heartened to read Bruce Willis’ words in defence of James Frey on the website www.contactmusic.com. Not many celebrities are going to risk coming to the defence of Mr. Frey, no matter what their private thoughts on the issue may be. Not a good idea to make Oprah mad at you.
Bruce Willis declared James Frey was unfairly attacked on Oprah’s show last month. "Look at what happened to James Frey, in the last two weeks,” said Willis. “That's (A Million Little Pieces-jhh) a great book and so is the follow-up book. (My Friend, Leonard.jhh)
"And just because his publisher chose to say that these were memoirs, it took it out of being a great work of fiction... to this guy having to go be sucker punched on by one of the most powerful woman, just to grind her own axe about it.
"Hey, Oprah. You had PRESIDENT CLINTON on your show and if this prick didn't lie about a couple of things, I'm going to set myself on fire right now.
"James Frey is a writer, OK? He can write about whatever he wants. It's fiction. It's just shameful how he was treated in some of these things," said Willis.
My own thoughts as both a reader and a writer: ‘A Million Little Pieces’ is a book, for Heaven's sake. And it apparently helped a lot of people. Consider a president who lied about weapons of mass destruction and thousands of people were killed or maimed as a result. A couple of thousand being American. He didn't take as much flack as James Frey is getting.
Memoirs are creative nonfiction. Some are more creative than others. A memoir is a book written from memory, and memory is subjective and selective. An author has not only a right, but an obligation to shape his outpourings into a readable book, and to enhance certain scenes for dramatic purpose. James Frey’s editor said they should have added a note to that effect. A disclaimer. They slipped up on that. Which tells me she suspected, if not knew there were embellishments. I think editors expect them in memoirs, but you won’t hear too many say so, especially now.
I don't believe very many memoirs would stand up to the harsh light of scrutiny that A Million Little Pieces has. I just finished reading Teacher Man by the brilliant memorist Frank McCourt, and I very much doubt Mr. McCourt recalls verbatim conversations with students that took place thirty years ago.
I believe James Frey will survive this dark time in his life (God knows he didn't need another) and I wish him well with his next book, and the one after that.
Joan Hall Hovey