Here is one of my core principles. You never want to have USA Today lead a story about you with the word “embattled”. For example, in todays issue the paper reports that “embattled author James Frey defended his best selling memoirs on Larry King’s CNN talk show Wednesday.” Embattled and having to talk to Larry King? How much can one man endure?
Frey is the author of the mega bestselling book “A Million Little Pieces”. As I type these words the book is the number one seller on Amazon.com. The Barnes and Noble website review called Frey, “Prodigiously talented, poetic, unflinchingly honest, and relentlessly present. A lot to live up to? Not if you’re James Frey, whose memoir Pat Conroy calls “the War and Peace of addiction.” As Frey will unapologetically assert, he’s an Alcoholic and a Drug Dealer and a Criminal.” (caps his).
But a problem has arisen with that little “unflinchingly honest” phrase in the B&N review. It appears that Frey has been a bit less than honest with some of his recollections. It seems that the investigative website thesmokinggun.com has published an extensive expose accusing the author of embellishing or even inventing much of his criminal past.
Frey defended his work by noting that only 18 pages of the 432–page memoir were in dispute. He incredibly declared that was “an appropriate ratio for a memoir.” The author also defended the ‘essential truths’ of his work. This is a fascinating story of the cycle of celebrity. We exalt them and then seek to destroy them. But Frey could have learned a few valuable lessons that would have kept him out of the media frying pan. Aristotle wisely noted that, “The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.” I am sure Mr.Frey could identify with the timeless wisdom of that quote. Bill Copeland wryly observed that “when you stretch the truth, watch out for the snapback!”
The problem with the revelations about some of Frey’s book is the pall that it casts over all of it. An unknown writer said to “beware of the half truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half.” Unfortunately Mr.Frey has called all of his recollections into question because he misrepresented some of them. Some of his descriptions are indeed powerful. But did they really happen as he describes?
The point of this rambling is not to throw James Frey under a speeding self-righteous bus. The application of this story for me is much more personal. I have an obligation as a follower of Christ to be accurate and truthful in all of my writing and speaking. I don’t believe there is an “appropriate ratio” of inaccuracy. That doesn’t mean that there will never be mistakes but they should be dealt with quickly and called by their name. I totally agree with Mark Twain who said if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.
And isn’t that a peaceful place to be? No franctic cover ups or wondering what you told him or her. Stretching the truth a bit to embellish a resume or a story is so easy. Who will find out? Chances are that someone will. Stupid Google!!!
But that is not the best reason to always be truthful. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs some timeless wisdom that applies to James Frey but it also lands squarely on me.
We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
but GOD’s purpose prevails.
It’s only human to want to make a buck,
but it’s better to be poor than a liar.
Fear-of-GOD is life itself,
a full life, and serene–no nasty surprises (Proverbs 19 The Message)
Jesus said this to His disciples who had claimed to believe in Him.
“If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8 – The Message)
I am not in the mood to pick up stones to hurl at James Frey. Steven Soderbergh chillingly noted that “Lying is like alcoholism. You are always recovering.” I am in the same boat as a follower of Christ. Through the grace of the Lord Jesus I am always recovering. “Hi, my name is Dave and I am a sinner.” Keeping that truth in mind will keep many of the ‘nasty surprises’ at bay.