James Frey is doing just one interview for his new novel, Bright Shiny Morning, and it's with Vanity Fair. Writer Evgenia Peretz tries to get to the bottom of what exactly happened with that whole fake-memoir scandal of his last book, which caused him to be ritually flensed on Oprah. "During the publishing process, Frey, it seems, still had some misgivings about putting the book out there as a memoir." Is there usually so much sturm und drang about putting out a memoir? If it's true it's a memoir and if not it's fiction, right? We're sort of tired of debating the mechanics of it at this point, but apparently it's just not that simple.
Unnoticed under the din of all the turbo-charged, unflinching, badass excitement was an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in which the reporter, Deborah Caulfield Rybak, raised questions about the plausibility of the book. She asked Talese about possible factual discrepancies, and why there wasn't an author's note if, as Frey had told reporters, names and identifying characteristics had been changed. Talese said, "It's a total slipup that we didn't have a disclaimer page. I'm embarrassed."
Basically it sounds the entire publishing process—from agent to publishers to the author himself—was entirely convoluted. Nobody could freaking decide what they wanted, or thought, or what the other party meant by "fiction" or "nonfiction" or "this is pretty much how it happened, more or less." At some point, however, Frey just started passing off certain things that hadn't happened as true, such as his fictional three months in jail, and that's where the problems began:
"There's nothing to do there. You can go out to the yard and walk around or shoot hoops or lift weights. I didn't really want to do anything, so I spent most of my time reading books." He added that his reading list inside the slammer included Don Quixote, War and Peace, and The Brothers Karamazov.
Everyone has a slightly different story as to what happened because they all need to save their own asses, but nothing beats the words of Oprah: "It's not an idea, James. That's a lie." She has spoken.
James Frey's Morning After [Vanity Fair]