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January 30, 2006

The Web's Frey Detritus

Memoirist James Frey has been exposed as a fabulist (Gelflogged recently), and, now that one-time Frey endorser Oprah Winfrey has turned on the best-selling author, the at-first-ambivalent media, including many outlets that carried glowing reviews and profiles of Frey, are rushing to bury Frey's rep. (Jon Stewart had a great segment Monday night noting the appropriateness—in light of sometimes-deferential coverage of government officials by TV news—of the press's tone of shock that Oprah would hold a liar to account.) Yet three weeks after the Smoking Gun started the controversy by exposing some of Frey's lies, some funny traces of Frey's erstwhile prestige remain online:

• Frey publisher Random House's magazine, Bold Type, carried a promotional package about the book. From the lead-in text, with Gelf's obvious inserted commentary bracketed:

In writing his shattering, beautiful memoir, A Million Little Pieces, James Frey does away with a lot of things: punctuation, standard grammar rules, 12-step programs, belief in a higher power, [truth] and, eventually, his addiction to alcohol and drugs. In doing so, he has rewritten the rules [sic] 'Recovery Memoir' [—namely, that they need be true].

• Oprah, now eager to distance herself from Frey, was once eager to catch some of the reflected glory from his redemptive tale; she even planned a follow-up show about folks whose lives she helped save. Her website asked, "Did A MILLION LITTLE PIECES Save Your Life?"

Did you read A MILLION LITTLE PIECES after our book club announcement and get inspired to overcome your own battle with drug or alcohol addiction? Did you see JAMES FREY discuss his personal journey on THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW and vow to make some critical changes in your life? Is Oprah's Book Club selection helping YOU "hold on?" Did you decide to get some help, or enter rehab, or admit you're having a drug problem after watching the show? After reading the book do you realize that you or your family member have lived through your own version of A MILLION LITTLE PIECES?

If your life has been dramatically impacted by our latest Book Club selection or by JAMES FREY'S appearance on THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW, then we want to hear from you. Please write and tell us how your life has been impacted. Please respond only if you are willing to share your story on national television.

• Frey's now-mostly-silent website (the only posts, post-controversy, announce his Larry King appearance, explain that Random House isn't offering refunds, and disavow any message-board posts attributed to Frey) had this post last month: "Have a friend Jessica Coen doing a reading next week in NY she runs a great site called Gawker ceck [sic] her out if you have a chance."

Gelf asked Coen—who's been all over the Frey story on Gawker, as Jossip pointed out—about her friendship with Frey, and whether it was as fictitious as certain aspects of his book. She pointed us to the comments thread on her initial Gawker post, in which Coen wrote,

We're friendly in that we've met once (at his book party) and have occasionally spoken on the phone. I emailed him for comment earlier but hadn't heard back. Facts are facts, though, and what I thought of him personally is irrelevant in light of what TSG has uncovered. The whole thing just makes me sad, like a wounded kitten.

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