And just in case you haven’t heard enough about James Frey and his million little lies, Michiko Kakutani has an article in the NYT book section:
It is not, however, just a case about truth-in-labeling or the misrepresentations of one author: after all, there have been plenty of charges about phony or inflated memoirs in the past, most notably about Lillian Hellman’s 1973 book “Pentimento.” It is a case about how much value contemporary culture places on the very idea of truth. Indeed, Mr. Frey’s contention that having 5 percent or so of his book in dispute was “comfortably within the realm of what’s appropriate for a memoir” and the troubling insistence of his publishers and his cheerleader Oprah Winfrey that it really didn’t matter if he’d taken liberties with the facts of his story underscore the waning importance people these days attach to objectivity and veracity.
We live in a relativistic culture where television “reality shows” are staged or stage-managed, where spin sessions and spin doctors are an accepted part of politics, where academics argue that history depends on who is writing the history, where an aide to President Bush, dismissing reporters who live in the “reality-based community,” can assert that “we’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” Phrases like “virtual reality” and “creative nonfiction” have become part of our language. Hype and hyperbole are an accepted part of marketing and public relations. And reinvention and repositioning are regarded as useful career moves in the worlds of entertainment and politics. The conspiracy-minded, fact-warping movies of Oliver Stone are regarded by those who don’t know better as genuine history, as are the most sensationalistic of television docudramas.
Most disturbing of all, however, is that Oprah has now chosen Elie Wiesel’s Night for her book club. Oprah says that Wiesel’s book “should be required reading for all humanity.” Yes, absolutely. But does it cheapen Mr. Wiesel and his experience to follow serial liar Frey? Already, the NYT reports that Mr. Wiesel has been asked if his book is true.
Mr. Wiesel said he had not read Mr. Frey’s book and could not comment on the controversy. He acknowledged that some people and institutions, including on occasion The New York Times, have referred to “Night” as a novel, “mainly because of its literary style.”
“But it is not a novel at all,” he said. “I know the difference,” he added, noting that “Night” is the first of his 47 books, several of which are novels. “I make a distinction between what I lived through and what I imagined others to have lived through.”
Now how come James Frey and Oprah don’t seem to know the difference?