Fabricating memoirist James Frey earned a $1.5 million advance for his novel Bright Shiny Morning, and sales are strong. Now Frey is paying forward his riches from the book, and the money seems to be making a circle back toward the people who staged his comeback in the first place. Frey, the Post reported today, hired his wife's friend Davidson Goldin, former editorial director at MSNBC, to help with publicity on Bright Shiny Morning. Now flush, it would seem, with surplus cash, Goldin is starting a "media-strategy and branding consulting firm." And who did Frey steer to Goldin as a partner in this endeavor? Joe Dolce, the former Star magazine editor-in-chief famous for his poor management and communication skills. But there's a very relevant detail about Dolce and his relationship to Frey the Post omitted:
Dolce is connected to Frey not only through friendship, but also via the business dealings of his boyfriend and reported husband, John Burnham. As we mentioned in February, Burnham is the HarperCollins editor who "stunned" colleagues by inking the Bright Shiny Morning deal with Frey, thus delivering him a big payday.
How interesting that his life partner Dolce has now been brought onto the startup of someone recently paid by Frey.
This begs several questions the Post apparently did not ask, but should have: How much did Frey pay Goldin? How much money, if any, is Dolce investing in his "partnership" with Goldin? And how much money will Dolce be taking out?
The Post described Frey's involvement in the Dolce-Goldin partnership as merely an email introduction and suggestion to do business. But it's hard to look at all the money changing hands and backscratching going on here and not imagine that a kind of laundering is taking place, of Frey's reputation and social stature, certainly, but of the author's advance, as well. Frey's Bright Shiny Morning payday came under heavy, if expected, criticism, and Frey is carefully steering some of the money to at least one friend, Goldin, who in turn is helping other Frey friends.
This is an adroit move on the part of the disgraced writer, and is a big part of why Frey's life more and more has come to resemble the narrative arc in A Million Little Pieces, his faked autobiography: A public and almost pornographically brutal descent followed by rehabilitation and unlikely redemption.
Twelve-step meeting advice aside, sometimes that redemption can't be left entirely to a higher power. It has to be engineered, one relationship at a time.