To celebrate the return of Glasgow literary festival Aye Write! Rodge Glass explores the sometimes tenuous relationship between fact and fiction in writing, as one of literature’s most notorious 'liars', James Frey, comes to town
ruth is a slipper) business. and those who
deal in it should be earel'ul. This was what
Ilaruki .\Iura|sami was s;i_\ing last month when he aeeepted the .lei'usalem I’ri/e. a eontrmersial writers‘ award. He opened his speeeh sawing: ‘I ha\ e come to .lerusalem toda) as a nmelist. which is to sa_\ as a prolessional spinner ol' lies.~ Standing ne\t to the Israeli I’resident he went on to sa} that politicians tell lies too. and diplomats. and militar} men. but ‘no one eritiei/es the novelist as immoral l'or telling them. Indeed. the bigger and better his lies and the more ingeniousl) he ereates them. the more he is likel) to be praised b} the public and the el‘llles.‘ The reason people like to read skill-til lies. he suggested. is beeause the} re\eal truths about our world.
James I're) tell on the mudd} side ol' the line between truth and lies when his memoir ol‘ his time in prison and m'ereoming drugs. A Million Little Pieces. was e\posed as eontaining some ernbellislunents. Perhaps. it tttrned out. he hadn't spent quite so long behind bars. I’erhaps he'd not been quite so low as he‘d elaimed. In 2003 I‘re) had been open about his methods. saying ‘I’Ve ne\'er denied I'Ve altered small details.‘ In 3003 that didn‘t matter bttt a couple ol~ wars later it \er)’ much did because he had been endorsed by the all-powerl‘ul ()prah Winl're). who instantl) guarantees massive sales. And when ()prah‘s angr)‘ l'ans started aeeusing her of not caring about the truth. .she tricked I-‘rey and his publishers onto her show l‘or a good. harsh telling ol'l‘. sa_\ing she l’elt ‘duped‘. and that lire) had 'lied to millions ol people‘.
This was eontrmersial in itsell‘ and was the
James Frey has enjoyed notable success since the controversy; Oprah (right)
contronts Frey about the
‘truth' of his book