Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More on James Frey

Here's more in the The New York Times on James Frey.

And if you want to listen to my interview with James, click here.

Is memoir different from journalism? Do you get to make things up in memoir? These are the questions, among others, that I hear these days.

In memoir, it's agreed that you can make some things up: dialogue you didn't actually write down but sort of remember, or want to approximate. Summary--instead of listing event after event. In other words, if you've had five marriages you might sum them up instead of reeling out each one. Didn't Mary Karr in The Liar's Club embellish beyond the beyond? When I heard that, I didn't want to read her book even more. I want to know that a memoir is basically true. Embellishments are okay. Lies aren't. Fabrications aren't.

And if someone says, "Is this all true?" and you say yes, it had better be true. Otherwise, you say, "I embellished, for the sake of the writing." If someone says, "Were you in jail for such and such?" you had better have been in jail for such and such. And don't say you expunged records, for whatever reason.

If you have a thought on all this, let it rip.

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