Three years ago, Oprah Winfrey publicly shamed author James Frey for stretching the truth in his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which was one of her book club choices until The Smoking Gun reported that Frey’s narrative had some falsities.
Now, Oprah has apologized for humiliating the author in front of national television. She invited him onto her show only to criticize him for “duping” everyone. Oprah may be the most powerful woman in existence, but it was unnecessary and very catty of her to verbally stone Frey to death in front of the world. No one deserves that.
Frey said Winfrey called him last fall to tell him “I felt I owe you an apology,” and she explained that her lambasting of him sprang from her sense of feeling betrayed, according to the Vanity Fair report.
“It was a nice surprise to hear from her, and I really appreciated the call and the sentiment,” he told Vanity Fair.
Frey did, however, invent certain elements to his notable memoir, which I loved regardless of the exaggerations. He said his ex-girlfriend hanged herself, when in reality, she slit her wrists until she died. He exaggerated his jail time, and admitted that he wanted to seem like a bigger hero than he really was.
Emily Dickinson once said, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant,” and I think this line should apply to even memoirs. Should Frey have lied about the nature of his ex-girlfriend’s death? No, but it does not change the fact that she killed herself in a dramatic way. He didn’t have to lie about his jail time to impress readers, either. He was as big of a drug and alcohol addict as you’ll ever find, and he came out of it clean. I learned in my Non-Fiction class that it’s all right to lie about small things to make a non-fiction story read more like a fiction narrative.
The white lies don’t change the story’s theme of redemption and the overcoming of adversity, but everyone overlooks the moral and criticizes the author for not having a fantastic enough story. It’s too bad that Jame’s inspirational story is overshadowed by a small mistake.