Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Million Little Pieces II: WTF Award

We have crossed the boundary. We have moved from social discussion to persecution to "WTF?" This is a distinction that may not always make it upon my blogs. But in this case, it stands tall.

For those uninitiated into the slang of the young, WTF stands for "What the Fuck?" It is a question of indignation, somewhat summed up by "What the hell were you thinking?"

And at the current situation, I am incredulous.

I am incredulous because of the sanctimonious bullshit spoken of in my previous blog. Because it didn't end where I left it.

Seems that the rescue of James Frey was a qualified account. Some folks must've been indignant and made Oprah look like a boob. Public outcry can be a bitch. That does not mean that the public is right.

After we left our creative author, supported by Oprah, we quickly found out the value of a late-night phone call. She recanted. She pulled the man back in and not only showed up on The Larry King Live Show to make peace with her heartbroken audience, but did her own show to make him feel like a goon.

I have heard everything from "chewed him out" to "dressed him down" to "ripped him a new one," as though he deserved it.

Did he deserve it? No. Did he embellish? Yes. Why did he do it? Amplify his experiences? Sell more books? For the sake of lying?

The latter seems to be the least likely but the most implied. People talk about James Frey like he's a bad person, and if you think people who drink alcohol and do drugs are condemned to die a painful death without redemption, then you've already decided and probably not read the book. But James Frey just fiddled a bit more with his story than others have done under the "memoir" moniker.

Public pressure has even made him lose his agent. This is what I referred to when I talked about this sanctimonious bullshit before.

Because of this, Oprah Winfrey, you win the WTF Award. Larry King, you win the WTF Award. You are the first, but will not be the last.

"Where is the victim?" I asked in my last posting. The answer is that the victim lives in every one of us. Most of us are sensible enough to shirk it off, to say "He said some stuff that wasn't true to bolster his story." Those that feel personal pain because of this have apparently never told a story. Embellishment is the root of stories, from oral tradition thousands of years ago to the ubiquitous and fabled "fish story."

Just because it's not published under the "memoir" section of the local bookstore doesn't mean that the story is any less culpable than a "memoir."

So we move today from "Where's the victim?" to "Where's the blame?"

And that's where's it's going. I'm not going to even entertain that issue. The blame is on us. All of us. Every guy or girl who used hyperbole to discuss their latest relationship in a bar discussion to every author who fudged a quote that can't be backed up by audio tapes is guilty.

We are a society of hyperbole, of entertainment, of throwing out that hook that catches the attention of the reader or listener.

Did James Frey need to lie? Probably not. But the fact that he did does not discredit his entire story.

Unless it ultimately does.

And then Waldenbooks will have to double the size of their Fiction section.