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Yesterday I got a call from a reporter who wanted my comment on the Frey scandal. I don’t think he liked what I offered him especially when I said: “What scandal?” The truth is that memoir – as with anything written from memory – is subject to our own slants and filters and, let’s face it people will often remember the same situation two entirely different ways. Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t explain the inaccuracies in Frey’s book, nor does it excuse lying, but investigate 10 memoirs and I challenge you to not find a thread of fiction, just like in about every fiction you’ll find a little bit (or a lot) of fact. But the bigger and most important issue here is that it’s not about the inaccuracies of a memoir or whether Frey lied intentionally, the issue here is that if we’re going to force one author to be so scrutinized we must all abide by the same rules. If we raise the bar on one person, we must raise them on everyone. Are we really ready for that? When does hype bow down to serious fact checking, disclaimers and all the things that any publisher knows, could kill a book buzz quicker than a public apology on Oprah. The truth is, we are a desensitized society. We are mesmerized by train wrecks and addicted to breaking news. Sensationalism begets sensationalism, and these days in order to sell it has to bleed more, cry more and tilt the drama scale to the breaking point. We’re no longer satisfied with the sugary sweet, we need the 100%, high octane shot in the arm. Especially when it comes to memoir. So what’s a publisher to do? Give the public what they want a sensational story of triumph and tragedy and face the litany of inaccuracies or offer a dry, watered down version attorneys have poured over. Personally I think Barnes and Noble had better consider adding some extra shelf space in the fiction section.

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