James Frey achieved a strange fame with his bestselling memoir that proved not entirely true, “A Million Little Pieces.” After going on “Oprah” to promote his book, he was brought back to face her displeasure about its exaggerations.
He moved to New York and wrote a big book set in Los Angeles. “Bright Shiny Morning” came out in 2008; David L. Ulin, who was then L.A. Times books editor, wrote it was “a terrible book. One of the worst I’ve ever read.”
But a little literary criticism wasn’t going to slow Frey down. As New York magazine reported in November, Frey has created Full Fathom Five, a company that recruits young MFA students to co-write novels with him — for as little as $500, $250 or even nothing — in hopes of sharing in the profits of their eventual blockbuster sale. The writing duties fell almost completely to the young writers: Frey would provide story ideas, writing guidance or polishing, and the connections to get the work published and in the right hands.
If it sounds suspiciously like a scam, Frey can show it’s not. “I Am Number Four,” co-written by Frey and recent Columbia MFA grad Jobie Hughes, under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, was published in the fall of 2010. And that’s not all: It was subject to a film-rights bidding war, and the movie is being produced by Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios.