Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Million Little Pizzas. Mmmmm. (This post contains zero references to pizza.)

I feel like the Da Vinci Code is a personal insult to me.

And no, I'm not Catholic. Or to borrow a joke, I'm a recovering Catholic.

Here's the thing. I'm a fiction writer. I write stuff that's not true - in fact, the not truer the better. But people love to believer that their fiction is real. That they know who that character was based on, or they know the thing that happened to the author that inspired this plot line. Just ask James Frey.

Do you know the whole story about him? Maybe you know the part that involves Oprah. Then again, if you're still reading this blog, you might just be the sort of person who disagrees with everything Oprah. So here's the story...

James Frey wrote a book, partially inspired but his recovery from substance abuse. No one would publish it. He then changed one word. He changed "A Million Little Pieces: A Novel" to "A Million Little Pieces: A Memoir." It got snapped up.

We all know what happened next. Oprah picked it up on her "Oprah-bots Must Read" list. People bought the book and loved it, despite a rash of poor review. Nothing could stop the onslaught of free-car loving television audiences from proclaiming up and down the merits of this book. How this book changed their lives. How they taped all the pages together into a loop so it would never end. (Okay, I James Frey-ed that last one.) And then Oprah blind-sided poor James on her show. "Bad James! Did you do that? Did you do that lie? Bad, bad James! Go to your crate."

And all those people whose lives were changed for the better got very, very angry. How dare you give me a pleasurable reading experience under false pretenses, they raged. They even sued him. Sued him - and won.

Makes me feel like Maggy Atwood owes me a rather large chunk of change. And Maggy, I don't think you can use the Long Pen for your court appearance.

So... what's the point. A guy lied and got caught. Here's the thing - people hate James Frey for the same reason they love the Da Vinci Code, despite the fact that it has been debunked over and over again, and stolen out right from a couple of half-educated conspiracy theorists. Not to mention, badly written. But people love it because Dan Brown wrote a little preface to the book: "Everything in this book is based on blah blah blah all true blah." Even though it is not.

Where's Oprah when you need her.

At the end of the day, people believe what they want to believe. In fact, I heard all that story about the Jame Frey memoir stuff through word of mouth. I've never researched it or tracked down it's sources, but I like to believe it because it fits in with a number of things I happen to already believe in.

Mostly that Oprah is a very negative influence on our culture, and that people are misguided when they value a vaguely defined idea of truth over a well constructed work of creative imagination.

But what do we do when we write? Isn't writing and painting and all creative works simply attempts to create proxies of truth?

Nah, what am I talking about. The only reason I write this blog is to make you laugh and try to appear smart.

No comments: