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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 5:07 pm 
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First, I haven't read this book, but I think I know what it's about. Maybe I'm wrong to comment at all on a book I haven't read; it's a dicey question in my mind.

I see there is a "scandal" and that it appears that Mr. Fray did not, in fact, experience everything he claimed to have experienced in the book.

Now it would seem he is saying . . . what? That he never meant it to be taken as "true"? And he's saying that it has a kind of "literary truth" that is more important than ordinary truth? His defenders also take this tack, that since the book has "helped" so many, why should we quibble over its factuality?

So many people (!!) have told me to read this book. So many people have told me that I might find "help" with one aspect of my life, if I did. Well, I doubt now that I will. Such a book, dealing with the various miseries of addiction, has meaning to me only if it is "true", and I have enough "truth" of this sort in reality without wanting to read a fictional account of a horror I've seen too close and too firsthand.

Why are "we" such easy prey to these kinds of deceptions? So often lately we are confronted with fictionalized "facts", stories altered, dressed up, sexed up, manipulated: since the plain, unvarnished everyday kind of truth is so boring, so insufficient, so tame.

I understand that there are many ways of telling "a truth". And I understand that everyone experiences "the truth" differently, that any given occasion can give rise to as many versions of itself as there were people present. But the book by Fray seems to have been just plain lies, a pumped up version of his life that was meant to make him more interesting, his tale of redemption more thrilling, his rise from deeper depths making the climb to the heights even more amazing.

There. Rant over. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 5:23 pm 
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vison, I agree. A friend of mine once said to me something very clever which I've remembered for years afterwards:

"Just because the truth is banal, that is no reason to create an exciting lie."

I see nothing to be gained from fabricating a 'true story' and much to lose, but the truth is not held in high value by our culture any longer and I blame the media for that primarily. It is important to me, at least, that a non-fiction book be non-fiction.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 5:41 pm 
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Jnyusa wrote:
vison, I agree. A friend of mine once said to me something very clever which I've remembered for years afterwards:

"Just because the truth is banal, that is no reason to create an exciting lie."

I see nothing to be gained from fabricating a 'true story' and much to lose, but the truth is not held in high value by our culture any longer and I blame the media for that primarily. It is important to me, at least, that a non-fiction book be non-fiction.

Jn


Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does the media CREATE an appetite for this sort of thing, or just cater to it? I can never decide.

I'm not much of a TV watcher. I have never watched even one of these "reality shows", not Survivor nor American Idol, nor any of their spawn. Yet I am quite aware of the blurring of the line between truth and fiction that these programs work with. They seemed to catch the market just at the right time, when no one was going to be shocked by learning that they aren't "real" at all.

It seems awfully true to me that the truth is not valued in our culture any more. Or even recognized. But why?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 5:49 pm 
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I think it's the pernicious belief that "everybody lies." That nobody cares any more about keeping their word or about personal integrity—that those things are silly and antiquated.

It's frighteningly hard to fight that with children in this culture, and some parents obviously don't bother—maybe because they themselves don't believe truth matters, or maybe because they know they've lied and cheated in front of their kids.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 5:53 pm 
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I do blame the media, first of all, because they have wanted to get that extra little frisson out of some shocking thing being true, while at the same time feeling free to fabricate things that shock.

They have so often fallen back on the excuse that we are supposed to *know* that everything on TV and in movies, etc., is "entertainment" and not news, but that simply means that we must asssume everything we hear to be a lie.

Once you have to receive information under that assumption, it is a very short stept to the conclusion that the best information is that which contains the most exciting lies.

The other player in this game has been the government, under the 1950s intelligence strategy called "disinformation" - Using information sources to plant lies which the enemy will then read and believe. Of the three people who invented this strategy for MI6, two became famous novelists! Ian Fleming and John le Carre.

And then during the Reagan administration in the United States, White House news was handled by Hollywood publicity teams who pre-fashioned everything that journalists were given and denied press passes to any journalists who would not print as 'news' what the White House had prepared for release.

It has been interesting and disheartening for me to watch, over my adult lifetime, the increase in available information being matched step for step and then surpassed by an increase in falsehood. I personally stopped believing everything I read in newspapers somewhere around the year 1984 ... and it also stuns me a little to think how accurate Orwell was in predicting how long it would take for an information explosion to become valueless. Jules Verne also wrote of this in the manuscript discovered some years ago ... really uncanny how accurately these men saw the end stage of the trend toward universal literacy. Just more people you can successfully tell lies to. :(

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 6:15 pm 
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vison wrote:
But the book by Fray seems to have been just plain lies, a pumped up version of his life that was meant to make him more interesting, his tale of redemption more thrilling, his rise from deeper depths making the climb to the heights even more amazing.

I've not read the book either. From what I've gleaned, the basic precept (recovering from addiction) was true, but the story was dramatized for the reasons you mention.

I remember at the end of the movie 'Appollo 13' there was some very small print to the effect that events had been dramatzied or something like that. It looks like this man should have added such a disclaimer, or made it clear that it was semi-autobiographical fiction rather than presenting it as fact.

There was a 'biography' of Ronald Reagan a few years back in which the author included fabrications from his own imagination. I don't know if this was indicated on the cover or blurbs, but I recall it being discussed afterwards. It didn't seem to tarnish that author's reputation or the validity of the book, IIRC.


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They seemed to catch the market just at the right time, when no one was going to be shocked by learning that they aren't "real" at all.

But aren't those shows real in the sense that real people are really participating in certain events? I think in the case of 'Survivor' the footage is put together afterwards, but I believe American Idol in its later stages is real people singing live on TV with real people calling in to determine the results?


I blame the profit mentality and consolidation of media power in few hands, which has resulted in the blurring of the lines between news and entertainment. That seems to be what this writer produced -- infotainment. Perhaps it will give rise to a new genre ... the self-help memoir dramatized for entertainment value.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 6:16 pm 
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Well, I haven't given up hope, myself.

But it's certainly discouraging, nonetheless.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 6:48 pm 
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So, um, what's that book about?

What's that scandal?

What does truth and lies and non-fiction have to do with it?

Sorry, but a little info on what the thread is about would have been nice!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 7:06 pm 
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From the little I know, hobby, a man wrote a book about his struggle with drug addiction. Oprah picked it up for her show; I don't know if it became wildly popular as a result of that, or if she picked it up because it was popular. I believe she had the man on her show, and there were testimonies from people who said the book had changed their lives, saved them from suicide, etc.

Then it emerged that the man had embellished the story of his struggle. As vison said, he exaggerated the depths to which he had fallen (life of crime, etc.) so as to make his recovery appear that much more miraculous and inspiring.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 9:29 pm 
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There is another, to my mind even more bizarre example of this type of thing that I read about recently, about an author that didn't even really exist. Here is an article about it that can explain better then I can

Quote:
To Be Or Not to Be: Does It Even Matter?
Edward B. Colby
Who is JT Leroy? A critically acclaimed young fiction writer noted for his "stark portrayal of child prostitution and drug use" -- or a cruel composite hoax that played with the heartstrings of readers and duped celebrities into giving "emotional support" after Leroy declared he was HIV-positive?

Today, the insular world of Manhattan media and publishing is abuzz over a New York Times article giving the strongest evidence yet that the transgendered Leroy is not actually a real person at all -- and literary bloggers are both outraged and feeling betrayed by the revelation.

In his "Unmasking of JT Leroy," the Times' Warren St. John writes, "Mr. Leroy's tale was harrowing in its details and uplifting in its arc. He was a young truck-stop prostitute who had escaped rural West Virginia for the dismal life of a homeless San Francisco drug addict. Rescued as a young teenager by a couple named Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop and treated by a psychologist, he was able to turn his terrible youth into a thriving career as a writer."

Benefiting from the support of celebrities and well-known authors, Leroy's books were published around the world, and the reclusive 25-year-old "appeared in public often disguised beneath a wig and sunglasses," St. John reports. "But the young man in the wig and sunglasses, it turns out, is not a man at all. The public role of JT Leroy is played by Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey Knoop's half sister, who is in her mid-20's."

Shown a 2003 photo of Knoop "discovered online," five people close to Leroy -- including his literary agent -- identified Knoop as the Leroy they knew (Knoop told St. John "I don't need this in my life right now" before hanging up on him). The Times piece also argues that Albert is the writer behind Leroy's work, following a New York magazine story that broke substantial new ground on the mystery in October.

"Recently, there has been more conversation about the identity of JT Leroy than I care to recount," writes SlushPile.net, but the Times article "seems more definitive, more concrete, and in some ways, more damning than all the previous speculation."

St. John is open about the fact that journalists, including himself, "wrote credulous profiles of the successful young writer after interviewing him, often in person" and notes that the "Times even published an article last September under the byline JT Leroy."

Supernaut writes, "Part of me likes the great simulacrum of the media endlessly recreating its own reality until it is all simultaneously real and fake, until it doesn't matter that an author I really admired for personal reasons in fact is an elaborate publishing hoax perpetrated on exactly the set of media/information-whores who always are so quick to pick up on and decimate an advertising technique by corporate monsters," before trailing off into abstract theory. Gothamist's snarkiness is more digestible: "[W]e guess the Times is trying to play catch-up with its writers' and contributors' writing habits -- JT Leroy wrote an article for the Times' T magazine last fall about Disneyland Paris; expenses and questions with hotel staffs there helped the Times realize he might not exist! Dunh dunh dunh."

Ken Foster, one of a series of bloggers who met or knew Leroy personally ("[T]here was JT, in his weird sunglasses and hat, refusing to speak to people, but cutting a mean rug on the dance floor and squealing like a girl. Turns out he was a girl"), concludes that perhaps even more disappointing than the scam itself "are the number of people -- including journalists -- who completely bought into it, and who were so convinced of the existence of their 'friend' that they refused to entertain any questions about his true identity."

Betrayal, however, is a more common theme. "[I]f you're an author, an editor, a publisher -- or worse, a friend -- to someone who bullshit you up one side and down the other, it's not cute," writes Susie Bright, a former editor of Leroy's. "It's not irrelevant. It's a cruel con, straight up, and the whole writers' community suffered for it."

Meanwhile, in an email statement provided to the Times by Leroy's lawyer, the writer maintained that Savannah Knoop is nothing more than a façade. "As a transgendered human, subject to attacks," Leroy said, "I use stand-ins to protect my identity."

Wrapping up this even-more-meta-than-usual trip through blogland, we turn to Professor Kim's News Notes for the final word: "Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes truth just is a fiction."


http://www.cjrdaily.org/blog_report/to_be_or_not_to_be_does_it_eve.php

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:06 am 
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:shock:

Not much you can say. This puts me in mind of the reporter who wrote about the 8 year-old heroin addict, the one she made up. Or that guy, whose name escapes me, who plagiarized so many writers and wound up getting fired, wasn't there a movie about him?

On the other hand..............

There was once a famous "Indian" naturalist and writer in Canada, known internationally as Grey Owl. Met the Prime Minister, the Royal Family, etc. Married an "Indian Princess". Campaigned ceaselessly to save the beaver from extinction.

Turns out he was an Englishman named Archie Bellaney (not sure about the spelling of his last name) and when he was being feted in England his sisters said, "But, that's our brother Archie!"

He was handsome and dark-haired and wore his hair in braids, but he no more looked like a Native American than the man in the moon. Yet he fooled millions of people for years.

Grey Owl is rather admired, since he was into Good Works. So there you are.

It isn't new, and it still sux.

(By the way, Grey Owl's wife was a real Indian.)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:30 am 
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Maybe that was the only way that Archie Belleney was able to do good works. That doesn't sound like such a bad thing to me.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:43 am 
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I've actually heard stories of celebrities, in the process of writing their autobiographies, purchasing true-life anecdotes from other people to present as having happened in their own lives. They're true stories, yes! But they belong to people whose lives are otherwise regarded as not worth reading about.

Voronwë, really! You never struck me as one of those ends-justify-the-means sort of people. The man was still a liar.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:49 am 
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Maybe that was the only way that Archie Belleney was able to do good works. That doesn't sound like such a bad thing to me.

I agree, but couldn't you say that this may be true for this James Fray guy, too?

From what Cerin said (thanks for the info! :) ), his book helped a lot of people, and it would not have been so successfull (and hence helpful for so many) if it hadn't been so extreme!

I agree on what was said about truth and the discouragement of truth in the media*, and how dreadful this is.
But I guess in a time where so much news is available, the only way to reach people is to stand out somehow. A normal story of a normal, everyday addict overcoming his addiction by normal means would not even have been printed, I guess.
He should have said at some point, though, that part of the story was embellished or something like that - to pretend it's the literal truth when it's not, is of course nothing but lying, and as soon as you make a profit from it, cheating, too.

*As to the media discouraging the truth, I hate those commercials where you get kids telling lies, which is portrayed as clever and cool. Do you get those in the US, too? :bang:

Edited to add: Whistler, and others, re Grey Owl, I saw the movie about him, and from this it seemed that he wanted to be a Native! He felt he was one in his heart! So, I think that's different from lying for publicity's sake. It's more like taking on a role and forgetting it's a role - I think it might happen. (Not sure how far the movie was close to the truth, of course! ;) )

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:02 am 
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Whistler wrote:
I've actually heard stories of celebrities, in the process of writing their autobiographies, purchasing true-life anecdotes from other people to present as having happened in their own lives. They're true stories, yes! But they belong to people whose lives are otherwise regarded as not worth reading about.


Now that is truly disgusting.

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Voronwë, really! You never struck me as one of those ends-justify-the-means sort of people. The man was still a liar.


I'm not, really, most of the time. I guess I am just so jaded and cynical after hearing so much about people lying and deceiving to do bad deeds that it seems like an improvement to hear about someone lying and deceiving to do good deeds. But you are right; it is an illusion.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:50 am 
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If we are to bring TV commercials into this thread, then we are SUNK.

However. I am going to go on a rant right now about some commercials.

We have a lottery here called Lotto 6/49. Often the prizes are $20 or $30 million and even in Canadian dollars that's a lotta money. Anyway. Right now they are running these commercials where a guy is going around being a rude jerk and then all of a sudden he's being nice to someone!

Why?

Because that "someone" has a Lotto 6/49 ticket poking out of a pocket or a purse.

The "punch line" of the commercial is "Be nice to a person who 'plays' Lotto 6/49!"

To say I HATE these commercials is to vastly understate the situation. :rage: Oh, yes, by all means be a jerk to everyone except someone who might possibly win a large jackpot! What on earth kind of mentality is that? Grrr..... :rage:

Especially since a girl I know slightly is currently involved in a lawsuit over a 6/49 ticket. The jackpot was about $14 million, split between her and 8 or 9 workmates at an A & W restaurant. Lo and behold, several days after they knew they had a winning ticket some other people who worked there started claiming THEY had a right to share in the prize since they "often" bought into the shared tickets and they just missed buying into this one and it isn't fair that they don't get part of the prize. What bollocks. They didn't buy in, they don't get a share! And according to my aquaintance these people rarely if ever had bought a share before.

It all makes me sick. The commercials, the mean-spirited mendacity of those trying to get a share they aren't entitled to, or the word "play" in the lottery commercials, as if you needed some skill or talent to buy a bloody lottery ticket...............

However, one thing that is sort of good has come out of it, in that now if you buy a shared lottery ticket they have made one with a form that you can get everyone's signature on.

I never take part in these shared tickets, precisely because I would be madder than blazes at myself if I missed buying into one and it won! So I never did and saved myself a potential headache. Potentially saved a headache. Saved myself possible trouble. O, forget it. I don't know what the correct grammar is for this situation!!!

Back to Grey Owl: he might have had a good motive, but he made fools of a lot of people. At least, that's how it's seen. And people don't forgive being made fools of.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:02 pm 
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I read "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey. I thought it was a very good read - interesting style of writing, painfully open and visceral - tore your guts out to read parts of it. Although it was billed as "true" I read it more as a memoir; a "looking back" and was pretty sure that much of it was embellished or made up.

I think one of the reasons people are so angry is because Frey basically trashes the traditional AA recovery programs and contends that he recovered without any kind of normal assistance - that he did it purely on his own and that he is the exception to the rule. I do not know if he really did this, or if his recovery was as incredible as he made out in the book, if he was as addicted to as many substances as he claimed or if he had really sunk so low as depicted.

I do know that when he first tried to sell the manuscript, he billed the entire thing as "fiction" and only changed it to a "memoir" when he couldn't get anyone to publish it. That tells me that he is a creative writer...but it also tells me that the work is likely only loosely based on actual events.

I do think that he might have been able to have it both ways, if the publisher had put "a fictional memoir" on the back...or even if the disclaimer "Loosely based on actual events" was in there somewhere. It is Frey's arrogance in passing what was clearly fiction off as his own story that is getting people's ire up.

Still. I think the book is a good read. FWIW!

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 12:02 am 
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I think one of the reasons people are so angry is because Frey basically trashes the traditional AA recovery programs and contends that he recovered without any kind of normal assistance - that he did it purely on his own and that he is the exception to the rule. I do not know if he really did this

Jewel, I believe that this is one of the parts of the book that is not factual. He did require treatment programs. So I've read. In which case it is particularly disingenuous to present himself as bootstrapping out of his addiction. And until now, the 12-step programs have been the only ones able to claim high rates of permanent success, so it's a bit dangerous as well for him to dissuade people from using them.

Jn

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 12:31 am 
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I wonder if we could, at some point, have a thread about 12 Step Programs. There are aspects of them that trouble me.

But not today. Tired today.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 1:00 am 
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Sure, vison! :D

There has been a lot of serious criticism of those programs ... they do not really restore 'normalcy' to the lives of those who participate in them ... but I doubt normalcy is within the range of options for those who have suffered a long term, serious addiction.

It would be an interesting discussion, but it doesn't have to be today. Hope you are feeling more energetic in a day or two. :hug:

Jn

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