I admit it. I never watch Oprah, but I TiVo'd the episode with her and James Frey. And watch it repeatedly. A Million Little Pieces was a self-indulgent grab-bag of macho posturing and misinformation, with breathtakingly bad grammar. The guy posed like a badass all over town, bragging about how he managed to quick his multi-narcotic and alcohol addiction through sheer will rather than wussy self-help programs. And now, well, he's just caught.
I like watching a braggart go down, but let's get real, here. This guy went on publicity tours and was almost always well-rehearsed. Publishers don't let you breathe if they invest any money in you. And watching Nan Talese chomping smile on Oprah made me wonder--as slate.com did--how much Doubleday knew. I mean, who was going to find out? What were the odds that this little book with the cool cover was going to go anywhere? Who knew that Oprah would get involved?
They sank him, and maybe they should have, but he's probably laughing all the way to the bank. Even I picked up his book again, to re-read that ludicrous paragraph where he's semi-conscious and covered in vomit and can't figure out what plane he's on. Oprah is "protecting her brand," as homespun, generic and powerful as it is. Who's losing here? Just us. The slowly disappearing discriminating reader.
I think they--the publishers, the publicists, the journalists--knew, each on some level, and knew not to ask too many questions. My book has been repackaged as the publishers see fit, and will be marketing accordingly. But women's history and pop culture are both non-fiction. I'm not making shit up. "It was doing so much good" they cry--for god's sake then, file it in self-help. Don't tell me that it's true. Maybe that should be its own genre: Fiction, Nonfiction, Truth.
With all that said, I almost wish he got away with it--pulled the wool over the eyes of the whole industry, the world, the Oprah-ness of it all. And then, like the character in the book, or like the man himself, running off to the Bahamas stroking his royalties and whispering "My precious, my precious..."
Wish I thought of it first...without getting caught.