I don’t know if anyone has seen the piece in The Independent today about James Frey, or seen the American book charts and that his new novel ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is doing really well. So far… so what? Well some people will know the uproar that James Frey’s first book caused and that he messed with one of the book world giants ‘Oprah’. I’ll explain…
Obviously here we have ‘Richard & Judy’, in America ‘Oprah’ is the book group queen and one of the books she chose back in 2005 was James Frey’s ‘memoirs’ called ‘A Million Little Pieces’. With the help of Oprah’s book club and her whole hearted embrace of the book ‘the man who keeps Oprah awake at night’ it soon became a best seller charts selling over 5,000,000 copies. Now had this ‘memoir’ not been such a saddening and shocking tale (I have still not read it yet) of his addiction to drugs, time in prison, rehab and the suicide of several of his friends. It was a harrowing tale, and an extreme one. The extreme nature of the novel left some to wonder and some to research on in particular (thesmokinggun.com) found that he had not been in prison for the years he stated but actually a few days. It soon became apparent that Frey’s ‘memoir’ was in fact pretty much pure fiction. Within a few months he was invited back on Oprah where she questioned him and said he had ‘duped’ her and all the readers.
Now some people would think this would be a publishers dream, endless publicity equals high sales? Not in this instance. The public followed and naturally so did the press. Random House issued a statement saying that anyone wanting a refund could have one. They subsequently dropped James Frey. James himself was berated in the press and became some kind of hate figure. He was reduced to going into hiding.
Why bring the subject up now years after the events. He has been signed to Harper Collins and his new novel ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is selling nicely and is going to be a forthcoming Waterstones Book Group Book. Readers are giving him a second chance, is this something that I could do?
I don’t mean with James Frey. I have however now put A Million Little Pieces on my ‘to read’ pile. What I mean is could I give a second chance to a book or author I have tried before and either hated or never finished? For example could I read another Martin Amis after the diabolical ‘London Fields’, or finish Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’? Well I have now put the latter and ‘Success’ by Martin Amis on my ‘to read’ pile along with A Million Little pieces, so I guess time will tell. Could you give an author or a book a second chance?