Frey’s reputation in ‘pieces’

James Frey, author of “A Million Little Pieces,” has caused much controversy in the past few months. The recovering drug addict publicly admitted to fabricating most of his memoir, a moving story about his experience at the Minnesota rehabilitation center he checked into at 23 years old.

According to, an investigative Web site called the Smoking Gun had alleged in January that James Frey’s memoir about substance abuse wildly exaggerates his past, with inflated claims about his criminal record and about his involvement in an accident that killed two high school students.

It has been said “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Well, Frey made a big mistake of doing so. He made Oprah look like a fool when he appeared on her show in January. He admitted to making up most of the events in his memoir. This was the woman who had increased his book sales when she added “A Million Little Pieces” to her book club last year.

A number of reasons could have influenced his confession on television. Maybe it was all the negative criticism surrounding him or maybe he felt intense guilt after he had conned Oprah.

Frey could have avoided criticism if he did not lie about these events. It took two years for him to fess up. According to, Frey was immediately dropped by his publisher, Riverhead Books, on February 23, 2006.

Professor Owens, an English professor and director of the writing center at St. John’s, believes authors possess a certain amount of literary freedom, but not a complete lack of restriction.

“When a person writes a memoir, there is some room for reconstruction,” he said. “It is always going to be your [the author’s] version of the truth. There is an ethical responsibility to give it your best shot, but he [Frey] crossed the line by intentionally making stuff up.”

Anthony Autar, a sophomore, thinks it was deceptive of Frey to pass his book off as a memoir to his audience.

“Frey should not have lied, though, by including fictitious events within his piece, but at the same time, we cannot make him the sacrificial lamb for the publishing industry,” he said.

Maliha Aslam, a sophomore, feels that Frey was not truthful and took his embellishments way too far.

“We recently had a discussion about James Frey and the topic of writing faithfully in our nonfiction writing class. It is obvious that we can’t replicate every quote, statement, or encounter we have, but I think Frey, perhaps, overestimates the writer’s right of polishing up the truth.”

According to the Jan. 23 issue of Newsweek, “A Million Little Pieces” was rejected by dozens of publishers when he was calling it a novel, but when his agent suggested he call it a memoir, it sold. This was a wrong move because Frey did not alter the story after he decided to call it to a memoir, even though he had an ethical obligation to do so.

Surprisingly enough, he had the public fooled for two years. Frey’s memoir is similar to the concept of reality television; we want to believe that shows such as “The Real World” portray what is really happening, but we known it could not be further from the truth.

“A Million Little Pieces” is a non-fiction novel and readers expect to believe that the events they are reading about are true. Frey’s fabricated story can be blamed on himself and the publishing industry.

“[The] memoir publishing industry has not been interested in checking facts,” Professor Owens said. “There is a rubbernecking phenomenon taking place. We’ve got people like him [Frey] who are sensational. There is a public desire for this stuff. Over-the-top reality television and shows like Jerry Springer, not to mention Oprah, have influenced the memoir industry.”

This scandal has not hurt Frey’s book sales. The public loves a good scandal. This explains the popularity of publications like Us Weekly and Star magazine.

Frey’s story is a heartbreaking one and he has most likely affected people with drug problems all over the world by humbling himself before them through his personal story. It is still an inspiring account of his experiences, but it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

“A Million Little Pieces” is still worth reading, but just keep in mind that you are reading a piece of fiction.