Friday, September 08, 2006

But do we deserve a refund. . . .

I just ran into the latest in the James Frey, A Million Little Pieces, saga. I assume by now anyone literate enough to read a Blog knows that Mr. Frey made up much of his previously "acclaimed memoir". There have been months of accusations, denials, admissions and retractions since the publication of this book which became a best-seller, was featured by Oprah and so on.
In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I fell for the story. Despite my professional knowledge of the perils of alcohol and drug addiction and of the methods used to treat them, I demonstrated an excess of credulity and as they say, bought it hook, line and sinker. Well, now I feel like one stupid fish.

I actually recommended the book to a couple of people before a colleague told me it seemed likely that parts of the book were fabricated. I think I need some therapy for the psychic damage this did to my ego.
One section of the book aroused a bit of question in my mind. In a scene reminiscent of the movie Midnight Express (torture by dental drill), Frey has extensive dental work without pain killers. Apparently Frey's treatment center feels that pain relief is too dangerous for recovering addicts. Now, I know that there can be crazy fads in the drug rehabilitation business, but let's get real. Next will there be open heart surgery done awake and without pain relief. "Now sir, just bite on this bullet here. . . . " Of course, for all I know this may be the one true part of the book. By the way, if you are afraid of dentists, do not read this part. It is truly hair-raising even for a work of fiction.
Now word has it that Random House, Mr. Frey's publisher is settling a lawsuit by people who feel cheated that they bought a memoir and got a work of fiction. I got this information from the Radar on Line web-site.(
And since we have already established that I believe everything I read, I now have to decide if I will get in line to recover "damages" from having read the book. At least will Mr. Frey pay for the therapy session I've booked to aid in my credulity-therapy?
Radar On Line tells me that I am unlikely to get anything back from this lawsuit except perhaps a vague sense of satisfaction. Even if the settlement happens I generally do not hold onto receipts of paperback books I buy. To my shame, I may not qualify for the refund anyway because I likely bought the book after word got out about the deception (since my colleague had already heard rumors of falsehood). And I'm not sure if a refund of $14.95 or so will really undo the pain and anguish cost by Mr. Frey's deception. I mean, this may take years of therapy to fix.
All kidding aside, what really needs to be asked is: are readers entitled to compensation if a writer lies? What comes next, class-action lawsuits by readers of the National Enquirer? It would be a nice change for them--they usually get the libel suits from the celebrities in question. Isn't this a little like someone who embezzles millions of dollars. Shouldn't Frey be made to give the money back to all his readers and his publisher? Or as some argue, if I was stupid enough to believe I was reading a memoir, I have no cause to whine about it publicly.
I might want to try to claim a refund because I want to punish Frey, but I honestly don't really feel entitled to the fruits of a fairly frivolous lawsuit. Perhaps Frey and his readers who get refunds should donate their ill-gotten gains to a worthy cause, like promoting effective treatments for drug and alcohol abuse. Now that would be a happy ending. But of course now we're really talking fiction.

No comments: