Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A lot of people (at least here in New York) have been talking this week about the Smoking Gun's story on James Frey, author of the mega-selling Oprah-endorsed substance-abuse-recovery memoir A Million Little Pieces. The Smoking Gun conducted interviews, consulted documents, and now presents large amounts of evidence leading to the conclusion that Frey

wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw "wanted in three states."

Now, you'd think this might hurt his literary career. You'd think that this, combined with earlier skepticism about some of Frey's tales (such as his claim that he had a root canal without painkillers after he got clean), might lead readers to shun his work.

But I just received the weekly e-mail containing the new New York Times bestseller lists (the new lists will appear here next Sunday) -- and I see that

* Frey's newest hardcover, My Friend Leonard, has shot from #9 on the list to #1
* the hardcover edition of A Million Little Pieces has returned to the list
* the softcover edition of A Million Little Pieces has remained at #1 on the paperback nonfiction list

The moral of this story?

In this country, we apparently like self-dramatizing macho braggart ex-drunks, even when -- perhaps especially when -- we think they're lying.

Draw your own conclusions as to how this relates to the usual subject area of this blog.

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