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Author Topic: Into the Frey
Rundler
editor
Babbler # 2699

posted 06 February 2006 10:33 AM      Profile for Rundler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, I truly hesitate to begin a million little discussions here about that memoir that wasn't quite true... There's a funny piece I thought people might enjoy.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,923-2021948,00.html

(Also, the writer threatened to hit my doggie with a high-heeled shoe if I didn't mention it. Really.)


From: the murky world of books books books | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3674

posted 06 February 2006 12:00 PM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
i keep thinking of the tragically hip's "nautical disaster" when i see the words "frey".

with his writing style, i don't see why he needed to twist/invent his life story. it would have been plenty interesting and oprah-approved if he had played it straight.


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Timebandit
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1448

posted 06 February 2006 01:26 PM      Profile for Timebandit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Much as I feel that Oprah et al are overreacting, I also think Frey (and his publisher) was in the wrong calling his book a "memoir". It was a heavily fictionalized account, and should not have been passed off as entirely real events -- it was, in effect (in my opinion, anyway), a novel.
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Rundler
editor
Babbler # 2699

posted 07 February 2006 12:10 PM      Profile for Rundler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I've been getting a kick out of listing it in our Independent Bookstore Top 5 list -- http://www.rabble.ca/reviews/top5.shtml -- since it continues to be a bestseller all over the place, as FICTION.
From: the murky world of books books books | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
Babbling_Jenn
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 10944

posted 10 February 2006 05:38 PM      Profile for Babbling_Jenn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, I think it is especially interesting to track when it changes. For example on December 1st, the bookstore was Westminster Books and it was listed at #4 as non-fiction. By the time it charted again on January 19th at McNally Robinson it was fiction.

Makes you think more about what memoirs are generally and if a memoir can really ever be non-fiction.

Does anyone think that there are memoirs that don't embellish facts or play down events that were negative to the author?


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jeff house
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 518

posted 10 February 2006 06:35 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
No one can be totally objective about his or her own life. But that wasn't the problem with Frey's book.

Frey's book contained deliberate lies. For example, he claimed to have done hard time in prison, when he didn't.

That's different from remembering your life through rosy-coloured glasses, or downplaying the time you threw up after drinking too much.

Frey's book played into a lot of myths about drug addiction, because it made a claim that someone so down was able to rise again through commitment and willpower.

That's a handy right-wing myth, because then we don't need drug therapy programmes, we can "just say no".


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 478

posted 10 February 2006 06:47 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I can't comment on Frey because I haven't read him, and I must say, I am not feeling inspired.

But jeff house's comment interests me. I have recently read a memoir written with obvious art, Joan Didion's memoir of the first year after her husband suddenly dropped dead, during which she was also watching over their daughter, severely ill from septic shock (their daughter died last summer, just as the book was about to be published).

You may or may not like Didion. She suppresses a great deal, although what she chooses to remember in prose and to highlight is not at all always favourable to her. I can't see any reason at all to doubt a single line she has written, and that is saying something, about any of us.

Is her book non-fiction? It is certainly art, and artful. Even fictionalized, it would still be true.

I'm reading another wonderful book of that sort right now, John Terpstra's memoir of his wife's three brothers, The Boys. It is highly impressionistic, and I am sure that it suppresses a great deal. But what is suppressed is none of my business, and what is written is what matters.

Again, it is artful. But even fictionalized, it would still be true.


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Rundler
editor
Babbler # 2699

posted 11 February 2006 04:48 PM      Profile for Rundler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You might be interested in the review of The Boys currently on rabble which takes another position on this:

www.rabble.ca/reviews

I be interested to hear what you think either in this thread or in the thread about this week's reviews.


From: the murky world of books books books | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 478

posted 11 February 2006 05:14 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Ah. That is a very wise and acute review - and I am saying that already, when I haven't even finished Terpstra.

So it's not fair for me to make this post a comment on Terpstra - yet - read it instead as a response to Helwig.

Helwig touches on two problems that must be agonizing for writers because they seem to set moral or human sensitivities against literary accomplishment.

"There is no decorum in disability" - I'm not sure I would put it quite that way, because I know some very original decorums created by people with severe disabilities - like dementia - but it is certainly true that we lie about disability and illness if we cannot testify to the wildness, the sheer wildness of what happens and how we respond.

I felt that response a bit reading Didion, who is so controlled a writer. Sometimes I just ached to see the surface burst. Well: and perhaps it does sometimes. I'm thinking about her.

The related problem is that fear of trespassing on others' souls. How can any of us presume to tell the truth, the hardest truths, about other lives and other souls? I think about that problem too. Even when we feel we are right, or even when we dislike others, there is something exceptionally hard about reporting on them in rigorously factual terms all on our own, without their permission. It is incredibly hard to do that - much more than just worrying about being polite and proper.

That kind of human anguish may be why writers finally turn to fiction.


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Babbling_Jenn
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 10944

posted 11 February 2006 08:00 PM      Profile for Babbling_Jenn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
skdadl, was that The Year of Magical Thinking? by Didion?
From: Rural Ontario | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 478

posted 12 February 2006 07:15 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, that's the book, just published this past fall.

I went to hear her read and be interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel at Harbourfront. I don't often do that, but I was glad to see her, much more vital in person than she has appeared in recent photos.

She is small and thin and she has been through a lot, so her photos make her look ultra-fragile. In fact, as soon as she moves or talks, you realize how tough she is.


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Rundler
editor
Babbler # 2699

posted 12 February 2006 11:30 AM      Profile for Rundler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think you're probably right that people turn to fiction for that reason. As a writer, I have always agonized over the impact of my writing on people and whether or not I'm being fair and whether it's possible to be fair at all to individuals or whether you need to be trying to think about the greater good -- like a defence lawyer does or something. Not that the greater good is easy to determine either. But, as I think our culture's increasing love of documentary shows, we yearn for the real, even when we know that representing the real always involves artifice, whether it's in the cuts of a documentary or in the shaping of a piece of writing.
From: the murky world of books books books | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 478

posted 12 February 2006 03:03 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think that a lot of writers and editors know by instinct that the moment we write "Skdadl (not her real name) ..." we have somehow weakened the prose, pulled a punch. A lot of therapeutic writing gets done that way, and you can tell that it is meant to be kindly - which is maybe why it immediately undercuts itself in terms of emotional power. You can just tell that a lot of the hardest stuff is going to be left out.

When readers are looking for emotional or practical truths, they aren't necessarily looking for kindness. They want to know how it really is, and how it really is may be quite bad. People still want to know, though, and the best writing fights through to that somehow.

But it is hard to do that to someone else, to say, "Sorry: your privacy/personal integrity comes second to the aesthetic demands of my deathless prose." (And sometimes, of course, it may not even be legal.)

It's a problem. Write first; talk to a lawyer later.


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deBeauxOs
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 10099

posted 12 February 2006 03:17 PM      Profile for deBeauxOs     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
posted by Zoot: ... I also think Frey (and his publisher) was in the wrong calling his book a "memoir".
To borrow from Lemony Snicket, the book could have been titled: A Series of Very Very Exciting But Alas, Made-Up Events.

From: missing in action | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged

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