The fuss about James Frey's purported "memoir"
"A Million Little Pieces"--whether it is "true"
or not--is astonishing primarily because it is naive to
think that anything that is set down into writing--print
or script--is ever, can ever, be "true." Memory
is entirely unreliable; it alters "facts" daily.
What seems true about oneself at age 10, when viewed from
the perspective of age 20, will have changed--grown--when
viewed again at age 30, 10 years of unreliable memory and
interpretation having altered it.
is hilarious is that this matter has brought into focus
the silliness of such absurd but powerful literary players
as Oprah Winfrey; by her own requirements for granting
her blessing on a book--surreal, surreal, surreal--she
was duped. Prissy Nan Talese, Frey's publisher, determined
that the book would be best presented as non-fiction,
rather than, as written, a novel. Now she's caught in
the awkward fuss.
there's J.T. LeRoy. Is he the real author of the sad,
sad books about a teenage hustler? Or did his 40-year-old
mentor write for him? What is wonderful is that he took
in the august New York Times that sent him to Paris to
cover some kind of festival, only to discover that he--whoever
he is--did not even attend. The fatuous remarks by those
"taken in" add hilarity to the whole thing;
Gus Van Sant says, "Who knows who he is? Am I Gus
Lord, why not just applaud the deceptions and put them
in the context--amusing, a relief, actually--of much greater
lies, like George W. Bush's, lies that have sent thousands
to death to support those lies.
are, I say, in the hierarchy of literary liars three ranks:
1. The biggest liar in the autobiographer, who dares to
say this is "true" because I experienced it,
although the most unreliable of all editors, memory, has
already made its thousand alterations. 2. The second in
the hierarchy of such liars is the biographer, who dares
to claim he/she--anyone!--can ever capture another's life.
(A sub-category would include historians.) 3. Third in
the category of literary practitioners is the only honest
one--the fiction writer, who claims, "This is a lie,
but I'll do everything I can to convince you it's true."
that those who deal in the greatest of all lies--newspaper
editors and writers that adjust the most monstrous of
events to suit editorial and political requirements--should
be so aghast. That hypocrisy should be the real area of
Los Angeles, California
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Original material by John Rechy appears
frequently on these pages.