Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008

A Million Little Tiny White Lies

"My clothes are covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood," James Frey began in his 2003 bestseller A Million Little Pieces, which documents how a drug addiction landed him in the hospital, in jail, and finally in rehab. Thanks to Oprah Winfrey, who selected it for her book club in September 2005, sales of the book soared. But after reporters at The Smoking Gun began questioning details about his so-called "criminal record" (they later found out he spent just 3 hours in jail, not the 87 days he had claimed), the book once dubbed The War and Peace of addiction" quickly became the literary scandal of 2006.

Frey consistently defended himself by pointing out that he was, in fact, a recovering addict, but that didn't stop Oprah from inviting him (and book publisher Nan Talese) onto the show to explain the inconsistencies. Talese later called the segment "mean-spirited and self-serving." Bad blood aside, Oprah and her book club — as well as the author himself — seem to have survived the scandal. Frey's latest book, Bright Shiny Morning published in May, became a New York Times bestseller.