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Monday, January 23, 2006

Memoir as fiction?

I liked Steve Almond's article in the Boston Sunday Globe on the James Frey event.

The bottom line is that publishers aren't really that interested in literature anymore. There's just not enough profit there. They like the idea of literature. They like feeling that they are engaged in the pursuit of elevating the human spirit. Like Oprah and many readers, they embrace the convenient, self-congratulatory aspects of literature.

But that's not the same as embracing its deepest virtues: the ability to make us see our world and ourselves anew, to expose our delusions, to engage our most unbearable feelings.

The work of a writer resides, above all, in an effort to divine human truths and to transmit these through the inconvenient medium of language.

But it's the wrong era for truth and inconvenience, and the right era for guys like Frey. He's not paying for his deceptions -- he's getting paid. Riverhead Books has given him an advance for his next two novels. Warner Brothers plans to make ''A Million Little Pieces" into a movie.

Listening to him dodge questions and pound his talking points on ''Larry King," Frey sounded more like George W. Bush than Ernest Hemingway. ''I don't think I'd change anything," he declared.

And why should he? Why bother with humility or honest self-reflection? That's for suckers.

It is an unfortunate world where suckers get to keep the cash.

I hope there is another way to keep score, something along the lines of honesty, authenticity and legitimacy.

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