The debacle currently unfolding over James Frey’s piece of literary SPAM entitled A Million Little Pieces (AMLP) and the subsequent fall-out over Oprah Winfrey’s unqualified endorsement has that whole post-modernist feeling of deja-vu.
Specifically, I refer to Oprah’s book club recommendation ten years ago of Marlo Morgan’s then claimed ‘non-fiction’ book ironically titled Mutant Message Down Under. Like Frey’s book it too used an invisible cloak of authenticity to leverage its sales appeal. Authors and publishing houses, like the marketeers of p*nis enlargement creams, endure little downside to this deceit. Publishing houses continue to reap the benefits of sales in relative corporate anonymity whilst their illegitimate authors retire into wealthy obscurity. Doubleday’s apology for the tens of millions of dollars that Frey duped them into making will not likely be extended to refunds. Nor will they be dropping the book or its author, thereby continuing to wring sales from this and his second book both of which enjoy top ten status in the New York non-fiction best-seller list.
So, just where does the truth lie? For the author of AMLP, I think the truth lies somewhere in his inescapable and addictive ego. For some addicts, AMLP will represent a symbol of new hope and for other addicts James’ fabricated truths and half-truths will further embed the despair at the dishonesty surrounding their own lives. For the parents of addicts, their truth will be the insight they believe that they’ve discovered into their children’s demons without having to actually visit with their children’s minds.
For me however, James’ book speaks to the million little lies of mass consumerism, intent on diluting society’s tenets of reality to the point where reality disappears in helplessness. Not only are we finding it increasingly more difficult to determine fact from fiction but like lab rats we’re slowly being conditioned to give-up trying.
How many aspiring authors embroilled in this crisis of the real entertain ideas of appropriating reality to create a world where truth is stranger through fiction? In the abscence of obvious sanction how many authors are leaning towards this post-modernist lie so successfully leveraged by the Frey’s, Khori’s, Demidenko’s and Morgan’s of the world?
More importantly, how many aspiring authors will also deliberately seek to hijack the dreams and prejudices of the weak in the quest of fifteen minutes? For instance, with Frey’s post-modern and largely un-proven message of abandoning step-programs, just how many addicts will succeed? Tragically, how many addicts in their attempts to live Frey’s message will fail and never recover?