The Inverse Brown Note

« January 2006 »

Memo to the Frey Guys: YOU ARE DUMB.

Under normal circumstances, I couldn't give two shits about Oprah Winfrey, her book club, or the millions of people who would otherwise be illiterate if they didn't have the Big O to tell them what was worth reading.

I'm aware that the argument could easily be made that Oprah is introducing Faulkner and Tolstoy and Steinbeck to people who hadn't heard those names since high school. But these are just people who, when "East of Eden" comes up in conversation, will now tell me what Oprah thought of the book instead of keeping their mouths shut because they don't know what people are talking about. Needless to say, I find this a negative.

And when it turned out that her book club selection, an addiction memoir by James Frey called "A Million Little Pieces", turned out to be full of factual inaccuracies, or what we masters of the commentary arts call "an apparent pile of complete crapola", I still couldn't be bothered to do more than smirk wryly in the general metaphysical direction of Oprah and her Phil-addled followers who eat that shit up.

But luckily, The Smoking Gun was on the scene, digging up all kinds of public records that contradict Frey's heartwrenching story of his struggles with drugs, tragic relationships with women, and unfortunate brushes with law enforcement. Me, I'd have twigged to it during the chapter where he recounts the horrible bouts of depression suffered by his brother Glenn, who repeatedly snuck various illegal substances to James from South America, but that's the nature of the business.

But then I started seeing the reaction, and THAT pissed me off. It didn't surprise me, but it still pissed me off. Because what drives me nuts about you people is the way you assign the benefit of the doubt on an almost entirely random basis. Rather than letting your perceptions be changed by facts, you get it backwards and make sure the facts are changed by your perceptions. So when people say it doesn't matter that Frey's memoir was full of fabrications because it still told an essential truth, well, I have to call shenanigans.

Case in point, Oprah herself. Now, obviously Oprah's got to cover her ass. She got rooked, and thanks to her reach, rooked thousands who never would have given Frey's book a second thought. But I honestly think she believes it shen she says things like this: ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"And I feel about A Million Little Pieces that although some of the facts have been questioned -- and people have a right to question, because we live in a country that lets you do that, that the underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me. And I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book and will continue to read this book."

That's sloppy thinking. Continuing to buy into resonant stories of redemption that are full of inaccuracies is dangerous. I don't want to be mocking some robot future version of James Dobson 2,000 years from now for being a Million Little Pieces Literalist, is all I'm saying.

Of course it matters that he lied. For the same reason it matters to vegetarians when McDonalds uses cow juice in its french fries. Whether it goes into your stomach, or your head, it's a really good idea to know what it is and how it got there. If you can't trust the work, you can't trust the conclusions Oprah drew for you when she summarized the work. And then you write letters to the editor and we have to hit you. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"I for one am not the least disturbed by the accusations nor do I feel betrayed by the author. The importance of the book does not lie in the complete veracity of the account. Its value would be unchanged had the work been avowedly fictional." - Ed Fischtrom of Minnetonka, proving that erudition is no guarantee of intelligence. Because actually, the value of the work would have INCREASED had it been avowedly fictional, because then you could trust it.

But Fischtrom loves the book because, and I'm summarizing here because this fucker makes me look like the personification of motherfucking brevity, Frey hates AA, and Fischtrom hates AA, and so Frey, through his lies, speaks subjective truth about AA. I hate AA too, but unlike Fischtrom, I try not to give assholes a pass for being assholes just because they share my worldview.

When Fischtrom opines, entirely sans basis, that "Some members of AA, I believe, are exceptionally vociferous and fanatic about defending AA from criticism, and some are even evangelistic about AA's message. Frey has surely stepped on some loyalists' toes.", he's no different from the people who defend Delay, or Bush, or Clinton, or whatever. It's a vendetta, a witch hunt. The Smoking Gun is, as anyone can tell from their website, a fucking haven of twelve-steppers.

And if you'll buy THAT, I need to get working on a memoir of my own.