I have newfound respect for Oprah
But I have to give her a lot of credit for not only confronting James Frey on her show Thursday, but for admitting that she made a mistake in initially defending him on Larry King Live a couple of weeks ago. She realized that, although she supported the message of the book, that the truth is what counts the most. During the course of the show, she showed a fantastic human side, showing flashes of anger, frustration, and humiliation, her voice cracking at certain points during her interview with Frey. She seemed especially dismayed that the facts about the suicide of Frey's lover Lilly, who he supposedly couldn't save from hanging herself a day after his "jail sentence" ended, were also changed.
She really did go hard after Frey and his editor, Nan Talese. When he said he had a tough time with the book, she
said "No, with the lie." which took me aback a bit. When Talese tried to curry sympathy by saying
she was sad for Oprah, the host snapped back, "It's not sad for me. It's embarrassing." Talese tried to tap
dance around Frey's lies by saying that memoirs are of the person's life according to their memories of it, even
veering off on some ramble about Roslyn Carter's memoirs, Oprah would have none of it. She was focused and asked
pinpoint questions that got at the heart of the matter. It's like she was reaching back to her experience as a reporter
in Baltimore thirty years ago, asking the hard questions and not accepting any bullshit.
The only thing she didn't catch Frey on was the jumbled and restructured story about a train accident that happened during Frey's teenage years. The Smoking Gun's story about A Million Little Pieces goes into quite a bit of detail debunking this story, or at least telling the absolute truth about it, which minimized Frey's involvement in the story.
But Oprah did her job. Frey -- to whom I also give credit for coming on and taking his medicine -- looked despondent (it was curious that Talese, who should be held equally responsible for this debacle, didn't seem to take this quite as hard, as she was laughing at the funny lines of columnists Richard Cohen and Frank Rich and the surprisingly mocking remarks of Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute). He mentioned to Oprah during a break that he had a gun backstage, which I hope was just a morbid joke. But he does need to do some more soul searching before he comes out in public again. Maybe go away for a little while, let the controversy fade and come back as a fiction author. Or get a job at Dunkin' Donuts.