I thought by now the Frey episode would have fizzled into a million little pieces but it doesn't seem to be so. Oprah shouts "I've been duped!" Everyone else is shouting "It isn't MY fault!" This morning's Spokesman reports that over and above Oprah denouncing Frey, his literary agent has dropped him and his publisher is reconsidering a two-book deal.
Mea culpas abound! Actually, I think everyone involved shares a portion of the blame and all this business about the high moral ground is shakey at best.
James Frey wrote a dynamite book. He and his agent tried to market it as fiction but couldn't so tried non-fiction - which worked. Unfortunately neither Frey nor his agent thought a caveat stating certain "facts" had been altered to "protect the innocent" or some such might be the ethical way to proceed.
Nan Talese, the publisher, is no stranger to how the mind of a non fiction writer works. Not only from her publishing and editorial experience but also from being married to Gay Talese. If you are not familiar with his writings or his reputation you might like to visit http://www.gaytalese.com.
More to the point however, is an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal stating "Publishers Say Fact-Checking Is Too Costly". In essence writers of non-fiction are taken at their word; a gentleman's agreement of sorts among writers, agents and publishers. I can just imagine the wink that accompanies the handshake.
As to Oprah's righteous indignation, I found it interesting that this icon of American pop culture and moral certitude turned a deaf ear to a tasteless attempt at humor by Roy Peter Clark, one of three journalists she had on the program from the Poynter Institute. This institution is reputedly dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. After his introduction he thanked Oprah for having sent Halle Berry to pick him up at the airport. That was his story, he went on to say, and he was sticking to it. Heh, heh.
Oprah herself - this paragon of virtue who so soundly castigated Mr. Frey and Ms. Talese for lying; this woman who many seem to think is akin to the second coming has herself lived for years with a Mr. Stedman Graham without benefit of marriage. That's her personal business you say. What has it to do with any of this? To me it just seems the flood waters of greed just might be creeping up on that high moral ground.