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Son of Octopus of Mayhem

This week I’ve been preoccupied with job applications, with reading, and with watching James Frey stare blankly at Oprah. More fascinating even than that was watching Thursday’s panel on Larry King Live talk about Frey and Oprah’s apology. The genre of the memoir has its defenders, and then it has its defenders who want Frey defenestrated. Take Carole Radziwill, best known for her memoir-from-the-entourage of John F. Kennedy, Jr., for instance, when Larry asks her about Frey’s My Friend Leonard (a second memoir published after A Million Little Pieces):

RADZIWILL: What happens to it? I don’t know. I think it continues to sell, which is really unfortunate because, you know, James Frey lied. Is that important for the country, no, God I hope not. Is it important to writers and publishers? Yes it is because in effect he has taken two spots in every non-fiction best-selling list across the country. And, it may seem trivial but it’s really not.

I mean this is a business. It’s no longer good enough just to write well. You have to get out there and you have to sell your story and you have to sell yourself as part of that story.

And there are two writers that aren’t on those lists because of him and those are two authors, and I’m not saying it’s me, I’m not saying it’s Jeannette, we had a lot of press and we were very lucky but there are two other writers who should be on that list and aren’t and they have great stories to tell and no one will hear about them and they did the hard work it took to really write a great memoir.

And maybe it seems trivial but it’s really not. The bottom line is this is a business and it’s not a very lucrative business because it’s really hard to sell books. People just aren’t buying books, so when this happens it’s really unfortunate for everyone.

Radziwill’s selfless activism on behalf of bestseller lists and the authors who depend upon them was on display for the rest of the show. Larry: Carole, what about cocaine addiction? Radziwill: Coke is great, Larry, but Frey really should be stripped from the New York Times list! He should be excused from Amazon, too. (Not a direct quote. Especially the cocaine part.) Count me as one skeptical of Radziwill’s altruism.

My suggestion to Frey, his agent, or his publisher: get Frey back on cocaine and make of the memoirs a trilogy. Title the third, How I Ruined Your Rehab, and How Oprah Ruined Mine.

And who could explain why I still can’t disabuse myself of the prejudice, no matter how many memoirs I read—and how I enjoy their reading!—that memoirists and their books are always too self-centered? Nevertheless, memoirs sell well, so to you aspiring memoirist, more power to you, and send me an advance copy.

The octopus that attacked. From the CBC and SubOceanic Sciences Canada Ltd. But of course none of that explains the return of the Octopus of Mayhem. But the picture at right, and the accompanying story of the octopus that attacked a Canadian submarine does. Could it be divine retribution against the Maple Leafs for electing the conservatives?—No, that would be too obvious. He’s probably just indignant that James Frey is keeping his memoir off the NYT.

 

Comments

they should just come out and say that he is the e.l. doctorow of memoirists. that his fabrications point to the fact that all memoirs are lies, or at least constructions anyway.

i know that my group of students who responded…it’s his take on reality, so can we really question it? would go for that tack…except it might come across as too high-falutin’, too “hermeneutically back-flippy” (to quote someone else) (halfway down his comment)

that said, none of my advanced students in the sor juana class have yet been able to accept that baroque poetry doesn’t necessarily mean that you believe and feel those things about which you write.

“we” can’t escapte our post-romantic, confessionalist expectations…writes tell us the/their truth and we are moved by this to tears, laughter, boredom

Oprah caught herself between the lines of truth-definings. From the NYT article:

In a last-minute call to Mr. King’s show, Ms. Winfrey defended the book as the “essential truth” of his life and said the controversy was “much ado about nothing.”

But yesterday Ms. Winfrey apologized to her audience for that call. “I regret that phone call,” she said. “I made a mistake and I left the impression that the truth does not matter. And I am deeply sorry about that, because that is not what I believe.” She added, “To everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth, you are absolutely right.”

About it all, Scott Esposito offers a play-by-play.

(That Tapie guy spent a lot of time writing that rattrap, didn’t he?)

yes, on king she was very aristotelian…but then truth and not truthiness got the better of her.

so, can just embedding a series of links to the discussions on romans 1 on other sites fulfill my promise?

About Frey & Doctorow: by most accounts I’ve seen, Frey’s writing can’t hang with Doctorow. His target was always Eggers.

Links can fulfill a version of your promise, but you have to explain the linkage. Such explanations may be a) serious or b) ironic, and you do not need to identify which is which.

Thinking better of it: No, it’s not enough to fulfill the promise. You must deliver a full-fledge reading of Rom.1. Make it hardcore.

It occurs to me that Frey wouldn’t actually need to relapse on his addictions to write proposed memoir #3. He could write it easily enough by making that part up. The rest, about Oprah ruining his life, will have been truth and fact.