Thursday, January 12, 2006

999,983 Little Pieces

Since we haven't had a P5 in a while:

(1) TECHNO-NOIR - 2,981 5
(2) SUFFER IN SILENCE - 26,510 6
(4) CONVICTION - 44,879 5


Poor James Frey. Poor rich James Frey.

Anyone who knows me (or visits this blog regularly) knows I am a huge fan of the memoir. Finding a good/unique one is the name of the game, and when I read A MILLIONS LITTLE PIECES, I truly felt I had found one worth recommending, and that I did. When I was reading the book I remember repeatedly thinking, "I can't believe this really happened. It's amazing."

Now, of course, I see why I thought that--especially since some of those instances revolved around the sections he fabricated.

Truth, we have been taught to believe, is stranger than fiction. And we stick to that notion. But when it turns out to be strange fiction, well . . . then it is just over-the-top lousy writing and inferior plot development. Don't get me wrong, the book is still decent on its own, but not anything memorable. I know Mr. Frey keeps pleading with his audience that it is "still an addiction memoir" no matter what. But so are thousands of others, so it better be compelling--and special. I've got 37 addiction memoirs in my collection (non-POD, mind you) and with the new knowledge of PIECES, I'd say its rank drops to around 31.

When you pull the wow effect out of PIECES, it falls flat, a book that certainly would have been overlooked by the publishing industry, no matter what his embarrassed agent and editor would lead you to believe.

But the way the public has been reacting is the real interest story here:

I visited two different "big box" book stores yesterday (not for signing) in the Philadelphia area and was amazed at how the James Frey debacle was playing out--a much different situation than the Doubleday statement about only getting 15 returns to the publisher directly.

In one of the superstores, I actually overheard/watched three people return PIECES, two of them clearly disgusted and annoyed (the third was a gift return.)

In the other superstore, they actually had a special line for people returning the book, though while I was there (about a half hour), I only saw two people make returns--though I heard the guy who was returning the second book mutter "f*****g Oprah" under his breath as he left the store.

Even though Frey, Doubleday and even Oprah are downplaying the "untruths" in the book, they all seem to forget one simple notion: that a large portion of people who read memoirs are not fans of fiction at all, and once they have been duped into reading it, it sort of pisses them off.

Most people are saying "screw James Frey" and moving on to the next book. But the publishing industry, for some reason, is highly concerned that Oprah might stop doing her book club. Uber-agent Lynn Nesbit was quoted in the NY Observer as saying one of the most inane things I've heard to date: "This book will come and go, but the ripple effect could be much bigger if it causes Oprah to say, 'I don't want to get into this again,' This would be incredibly damaging for the book industry."

Really? What did the book industry do before Oprah? And what did the book industry do while Oprah took a hiatus from endorsing books not too long ago? What many do not understand is that the average person's budget is fixed. People will spend what they can spend on books and nothing more. Oprah doesn't incite a reader to pull an extra $15 out of his or her pocket to buy a book; the person merely shifts that fifteen bucks from a different book they might have purchased to the Oprah-backed title--and in essence, killing more mid-list authors. If anything, Oprah is suffocating the publishing industry, not breathing life into it. You think Simon & Schuster is happy if the Oprah picks happen to be all Random titles? Death indeed.

That said, I wish James Frey the best. I've noticed that while PIECES is still #1 on the charts, MY FRIEND LEONARD is starting to slip down a few notches. Good thing he landed that fiction deal.

I am on the road, so no breakfast tomorrow and probably no treasure next week. Though I will be adding entries hit or miss from the road.

More Needle info coming soon. Stay tuned!