The Museum of Hoaxes
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Van Gogh's ear exhibited, 1935
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942
Eccentric's last prank, 66 years after his death, 1900
September Morn, the painting that shocked the censor, 1913
The Hitler Diary Hoax, 1983
The Great Electric Sugar Swindle, 1884
Fake Photos of Very Large Animals
Rare planetary alignment decreases gravity, 1976
The Case of the Vanishing Belly Button, 1964
Loch Ness Monster Hoaxes
James Frey, Fiction Writer?
Status: Undetermined (but the Smoking Gun presents a convincing argument)
It seems to be quite the week for literary hoaxes. First there were the new revelations in the JT LeRoy case, and now The Smoking Gun is now accusing author James Frey of inventing many of the details in his autobiographical novel, A Million Little Pieces. The book tells the story of Frey's past as a drug-addict and criminal. But the Smoking Gun alleges that, "The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw 'wanted in three states.'" They concede that the guy was a drug addict and spent time in rehab, but insist that his life has not been as colorful as he's made it out to be. As a police sergeant whom they interview about Frey says: "Seems Mr. Frey has quite an imagination. He thinks he's a bit of a desperado. He's making a bunch of crap up."

I haven't read A Million Little Pieces, and I don't think I will. Confessional novels by former drug addicts going on about how bad they used to be (but how they're now reformed and don't want anyone else to do what they did) always strike me as being annoying, preachy, and a bit full of themselves.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jan 10, 2006
Comments (14)
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/10/books/10frey.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/09/books/09book.html

he's a she
Posted by buba  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  09:06 AM
TSG does a good job on Frey, quite a lot of evidence. It will be interesting to see if Oprah brings him back as planned (not that I will watch).

I agree with the avoidance of the confessional novels. Most of them read like the author is proud of what they accomplished, even though they now advise others not to follow in their footsteps.
Posted by Chris Carlisle  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  09:12 AM
RE the confessional novel: Having grown up (?) in a fundamentalist church that loved showcasing converts from dramatically evil backgrounds, even as a teenager I wondered if the real attraction of these semi-evangelists wasn't the entertainment value and vicarious thrills they offered to rapt listeners. To be honest, their post-conversion stories were a bit dull, about as exciting as the lives of those of us who had never been desperados, gang members or street hustlers. It would not take much reflection for one of these people to realize that they would get more invitations to speak (and better stipends)if they pumped up the story to bring in more people to drop money into the plate.

I assume none of the other godly youth were thinking, as I sometimes did about their pre-Jesus escapades, "Boy! That's the life for me!"
Posted by Damien Scott  in  Chicago, IL  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  11:39 AM
Didn't read the book, but have read the TSG report. The thing that bothers me the most about this guy is he uses his supposed cred as a reformed hard-core junkie to blast the 12 step program. His solution to a crack addiction? Hang out with drug abusers shooting up, or whatever, and "hold on". Basically the worst advice you can give an addict.

Hey, I know a Damien Scott. He plays frisbee and follows outlaw racing. I don't know what kind of church he was raised in, though. Same guy?
Posted by Travis Finucane  on  Wed Jan 11, 2006  at  04:29 AM
Never mind, I think this is you:
http://www.blogger.com/profile/6132770

Scary what you can learn about somebody with a 2-second google search! At least with an uncommon name.
Posted by Travis Finucane  on  Wed Jan 11, 2006  at  04:34 AM
OMG...does this guy realize that he might very well have angered The Oprah? He better be hidin'!
Posted by Gee...  on  Wed Jan 11, 2006  at  01:35 PM
And apparently Random House is offering readers refunds:
http://tinyurl.com/dmqsq

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - Random House will offer a refund to readers who bought James Frey's drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces" directly from the publisher, a move believed to be unprecedented, after the author was accused of exaggerating his story.

Readers calling Random House's customer service line to complain on Wednesday were told that if the book was bought directly from the publisher it could be returned for a full refund. Those who bought the book at a bookstore were told to try and return it to the store where it was bought.

"If the book was bought directly from us we will refund the purchase price in full," one Random House customer service told Reuters, adding that readers would have to return the book with the original invoice. "If you bought it at a book store, we ask that you return the book to the book store.""
Posted by Ashley Pomeroy  on  Wed Jan 11, 2006  at  02:33 PM
I guess that's a nice gesture by Random House, but they're not risking much. Very few readers actually buy their books directly from the publisher, especially a mass-market publisher like Random House (for small, specialty, or university presses there are more direct sales to readers).
If I had a first edition of the Frey book, though (which I don't), I might hold on to it. Books involved in some other notorious literary hoaxes have become fairly valuable.
Posted by Big Gary in the northern hemisphere  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Wed Jan 11, 2006  at  06:18 PM
A similar recent case from 2004 was that of Norma Khouri, who wrote a book called "Forbidden Love" ("Honor Lost" in the US):
http://tinyurl.com/79fjy
Posted by Ashley Pomeroy  on  Wed Jan 11, 2006  at  06:30 PM
Well, toady he is on Oprah about how he lied and the audience and she are angry.
Posted by sandwich maker  in  Pennsylvania, USA  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  04:39 PM
People always want the truth. Sometimes it really doesn't matter if you get a word for word account of what really happened. When someone commits suicide, we NEVER know the whole truth as to why they commited suicide. Try and realize that James might have been trying to convey an emotional experience instead of a step to step story. Take for example, you are re-telling an experience you had to your friends, you want to express that feeling that you had at that moment to your friends, so obviously you are going to exaggerate the story to make in interesting and convey that emotion. Those who have read the book and were moved in any way by it, then the message was accomplished. How can you blame James for you buying a book. He lied a little, GET THE FUCK OVER IT!!! You listened to your friends and the media that this is such a great book. Who's fault is it that you bought the book? James didnt put a gun up to your head and say "buy my fucking book or im gonna kill you." No, obviously he didnt, so take responsibility for your own actions. Your own president has lied to you. I dont see anyone bitching about that. He conveyed a message about his battle with trying to recover from addiction. He accomplished that. He didnt say that I am going to write a word for word account of my life. He wrote a memoir about his struggle with addiction. There are a lot of bad books out there. You never hear people bitching about them. So, James writes a good book and since the readers didn't get a the whole truth about his life then everyone goes crazy. I just think that its a petty little fucking problem. If you have the money to buy the book, then you arent in that much debt that you need it back. Shit, even the Bible is exaggerated. No one EVER asks for their money back on that.
Posted by steven  on  Mon Jan 30, 2006  at  06:37 PM
The critical reviews of the book praised its brutal honesty. That was one of its strongest selling points. Without it being true, the book is just a tersely-worded ugly fantasy.

The author purports to be an expert on addiction, advising people to "just hang on" and specifically calling 12 step programs and similar worthless. His experiences in addiction's stranglehold: he is a small time pot dealer and frat boy drunk--not much to go on if you're trying to sell a story, much less present as proof of personal strength.

Several of his fake stories are damaging to real people and organizations. I already mentioned the 12 step program (AA and other orgs help many people, Frey doesn't help shit). He also said he was almost raped by a priest, tortured by small town police, and said the parents of a teen killed by a train blamed him for his death. Those parents are real people, who barely remember Frey, and are now mystified why he's profiteering on their daughter's death.
Posted by Travis Finucane  in  Santa Cruz  on  Mon Jan 30, 2006  at  06:59 PM
Oh God the world is coming to an end!!! James Frey lied about it all!!! Oh the Humanity! ... to people who acually cared that Mr. Frey made this story up, get over it. It is an amazing book, i couldn't put it down. I'm not saying his lying or his telling the truth because I don't know. What I do know is that it has been read by many teenagers in the school who would never acually read a book, and scared several kids experimenting with drugs to think about what they could get into. This book should be in schools for Drug Awareness and education.
There are people out there that are more made at Mr. Frey then they are at the President of the United States for saying there is WMD's in Iraq!! Heres the difference Mr. Frey didn't kill Thousands upon thousands of people in the name of oil! Get over it people its just a book! Oprah feels shes been lied to, Oh No, Not that! Wanna hear a lie? Ask Oprah if shes had Lypo lately!

K. Murray

Oh and watch the Daliy Show with Jon Steward he puts it to em good!
Posted by K. Murray  in  Halifax N.S Canada  on  Tue Jan 31, 2006  at  09:10 PM
There are other types of "confessional" novels.
Posted by Louis  in  New York  on  Sun Oct 08, 2006  at  11:02 PM
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