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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Thursday, May 15, 2008 2:05 pm
Better Frey Up Some Time
Posted by: Keir Graff

So James Frey apparently told Evgenia Peretz that he had no plans to speak to the press after speaking to her (“James Frey’s Morning After,” Vanity Fair). Artful wording, that–plans, after all, do change (“James Frey takes a novel approach with ‘Bright Shiny Morning’,” by Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today). And change again:

And again (“The Hot Seat: James Frey,” by John Sellers, Time Out New York). 

Time Out New York: In Vanity Fair, you said you weren’t doing any more press. What gives?
James Frey:
There are two answers to that. The first is that I felt more comfortable doing that interview than I expected to. And second, my publisher asked me to do more press, and it’s my job to do what my publisher asks me to do.

Liar! says Galleycat‘s Emily Gould.

The video I want to see is of one of his heavy metal publicity events, with security by the Hell’s Angels. Frey told TONY that the bikers make him feel safer–I guess he didn’t see Gimme Shelter.

How’s that blog coming along? I see.

Much more interesting than all of this is Sam Anderson’s profile of Augusten Burroughs (“The Memory Addict,” New York), “the last of the big-game memoirists.” Burroughs castigates Frey and insists on the infallibility of his own memory. Anderson is skeptical, wondering whether certain feats of observation have been performed strictly for his benefit, but ends the encounter a bit more credulous–still guardedly–of his subject’s claims. I loved this line:

Burroughs’s new book, A Wolf at the Table, is being promoted as “his first memoir in five years”—a gem of self-canceling hype roughly equivalent to “her first wedding since last fall” or “his ninth bar mitzvah since he was 13.”

Writers can be odd, difficult people, but I’m beginning to wonder if memoirists are more so than most. And speaking of difficult, what if you were really, truly Unable to Forget (Jerry Adler, Newsweek):

. . . what would it be like to recall almost every day of your life since childhood?—and then unintentionally answers: it’s like being stuck on an airplane watching an endless loop of security-camera video.

I’ve heard of this phenomenon–where’s her book deal? Oh. The punch line?

I hate to admit it, but confronted with a memoir that is guaranteed to be completely accurate, I can’t help thinking that, with the same material, a writer with a little imagination could have written a much better book.

Is it just me, or does Frey seem deeply uninteresting in the clip with Meredith Viera? Given how colorfully his personality has been portrayed in written interviews, I can only imagine him shouting instructions at himself (Don’t screw this up! Be contrite! Stay cool!). I’m confident that American Libraries editor-in-chief Leonard Kniffel will force him to be more forthcoming this June. My Friend Leonard, indeed!


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