Monday, January 16, 2006

Miscellaneous: Memories Are Made Of This

I wanted to ignore James Frey. Honest and truly I did. But after plowing through the Sunday Times, I realized that the story won’t die. And the bloggers’ union told me I had to contribute something.

Besides, I read A MILLION LITTLE PIECES well before Oprah anointed it for her Book Club. I thought it was a crock, a wildly exaggerated addiction memoir filled with tough-guy posturing. (And, to be fair, a crazed energy that kept me turning pages.) The fact that I didn’t believe most of this purportedly true story didn’t bother me, a sad confession in itself.

I could rant about the through-the-looking-glass reaction: Oprah blaming Random House for tagging it a memoir, the book’s fans claiming that Frey is the true victim. Or I could say that Larry David saw all this coming. After all, Kramer sold bits of his life story to fill out J. Peterman’s autobiography. The world is becoming more like SEINFELD every day, and we’re all architects like George Costanza.

Instead, I’ve decided to focus on how I can profit from all this.

I’ve always been fascinated with memoirs because I believed I could never write one. My life has simply been too boring. Trust me, I was there. Nothing but middle class white boy angst.

But Frey has shown me the error of my ways. In WRITING THE NOVEL, Lawrence Block explains how to create fiction by extrapolating one’s own experiences. You don’t need to visit the moors of England to pen a Gothic when there’s a perfectly good creepy old manse on the outskirts of town. And so, in this age, does the memoir go as well. Which suddenly gives me plenty of material.

Thanks to James Frey, I now realize that embellishments are OK – and that the one meeting of the Young Republicans I attended was an attempt to find acceptance by joining a cult. That time I downed too many hot dogs and got violently ill at Knott’s Berry Farm? That’s now an eating disorder that I bravely overcame. The guy who touched me inappropriately in Waldenbooks when I was 12 is, in terms of “emotional truth,” a history of sexual abuse. (And I was an altar boy. There’s got to be some way to work that in there.)

This is going to open up a whole new market for me. I’m going to put pen to paper as soon as I figure out how to spin my childhood trip to an Irish ice cream parlor into an alien abduction. (Both involve travel, an inability to understand what others were saying, and the insertion of something cold into my body.) Oh, yes, I know why the caged bird sings. And for $27.95, I’ll tell all.