Thursday, February 09, 2006

In Defense of James Frey

A random short list of popular "non-fiction" books that contain either obvious or documented falsehoods, or plaigarized elements:

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, By Dave Eggers
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, By John Berendt
Mole People, By Jennifer Toth
A Rock and a Hard Place, By Anthony Godby Johnson
You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish, By Jimmy A. Lerner
The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, By Doris Kearns Goodwin
Running With Scissors, By Augusten Burroughs.
In Cold Blood, By Truman Capote.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, By Hunter S. Thompson
Locked in the Cabinet, By Robert B. Reich

Ask Me No Questions:

I sent out an email a few weeks ago asking for people's lies. I wanted confessions of lies people have told, their best lies. A lot of folks were intriqued by the idea but less than forthcoming. The main theme that came up was one of responses to unanswerable questions.

For example, you're standing on the altar with your sweety on your wedding day. The priest goes through his incantative question: do you take this man, to have to hold honor and obey through sickness and health until death do you part?

There's only one answer to this question. Everyone knows that fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, but the only answer ever uttered is "I do."

The other classic and more base response lie is: do these jeans make my ass look fat?

They do, of course. Everyone knows this. The jeans always make your ass look fat. That's why he likes them. But he also knows that if you are a white girl, and you almost surely are if you're asking this question, you do not want to hear that the jeans enhance your rear end.

Now this is where the codifcation of lies gets interesting. In the first instance, is saying "I do" in response to the priests question really and truly a lie? Is it a lie if you mean it at the time, even though a voice nags you in the back of your head, the prescient voice that forsees the ugly divorce and child custody dispute? I know at least one person who knew his marriage wouldn't last, but he still said, "I do."

In the second example, is it ever a lie to tell her, "No baby, those jeans don't make your ass look fat" Because she knows you're lying.