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Interview w/James Frey in Macleans


Interview with James Frey

‘I would say hello but I can’t imagine Oprah and I would have much to talk about’


HEIDI STASESON | May 28, 2008 |


It’s been 2-½ years since James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, published as a memoir, was denounced as a liar by the queen of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey. The scandal over Frey’s book not only ruined his reputation among readers (the book had by then sold more than 3.5 million copies) but called into question the integrity of the entire book publishing industry. Frey has just released a novel, Bright Shiny Morning, with a new publisher.

Q How important will Oprah’s opinion about this new book be to you? Do you think she might ever trust you again?

A: Um, you know, I don’t really even think about it. If she reads it, cool; if she doesn’t, cool. I don’t expect ever to be back on her show.

Q: What if you saw her walking down the street, what would you say to her?

A: I would say hello and be as polite as I needed to be but I can’t imagine that we would have much to talk about. I wish Miss Winfrey the best in everything she does.

Q: After A Million Little Pieces, you lost your agent, were abandoned by friends and peers, shunned by the publishing industry, and cast out as a not-to-be-trusted pariah. How has this life experience changed you?

A: I mean it was an unpleasant experience. I can think of a lot of things in life that would be much worse.

Q: Like what?

A: I mean nobody died; I didn’t lose anybody in my life. My family is okay, my wife and child are great. I’m not a soldier fighting in a war, I’m not sick. There are many, many, many things involved in life that are a much bigger deal than anything I had to deal with. How did it change me as a person? It definitely humbled me; it definitely made me realize how fortunate I am in a lot of ways to have a family who was there, and friends who were there.

Q: Evgenia Peretz [in Vanity Fair] talked about how it was humiliating to the point where you actually felt driven to go back to the bottle for a while. Is that true?

A: It was hard, sure. I have a history of addiction. Sometimes when you feel things you might want to drink. But I never did. I was never, I felt, in any danger. It was a sh—y situation but you get through it like any other sh—y situation. I mean at no point was I, like, in the corner, huddled up crying. It was a bad couple of months. And there were some really, really hard moments, but you get through them.

Q: You just plowed into the book and didn’t [succumb]?

A: I mean I wrote a movie before I wrote the book. I didn’t start the book until October of 2006.

Q: Was that the Hells Angels movie by [director] Tony Scott?

A: Yes. I don’t know when it’s even getting made or if it’s getting made. I had been hired to write it in 2005 and after everything happened Tony was like, “Well, I still want you to write it. Let’s get to work.” And so I did. I wrote the movie.

Q: You have a fascination with gang life and bikers and tough guys — they’re all in this new book. Did that research from Scott’s movie help you with this book?

A: The bikers in Bright Shiny Morning are absolutely not Hells Angels. I got an interesting education in biker culture writing the Hells Angels movie. I had a lot of fun hanging around with some of the members of the club.

Q: Why are you interested in Hells Angels?

A: They’re rebels. They do what they want, when they want. They don’t care about what people think about them.

Q: Kind of like you. Didn’t you hang out with the Top Dog of the club?

A: I met Sonny Barger on a number of occasions and he’s a really cool, funny, very, very smart guy. It was a real honour to get to hang out with him. Sonny’s had a really interesting life. He’s an American hero to millions of people. He’s 69, maybe 70. He’s the founder of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels.

Q: But they’re tough guys and you portray a lot of tough dudes in your novels, including even yourself in A Million Little Pieces.

A: I’m nowhere near as tough as any Hells Angel on the planet.

Q: Let me see your [right wrist] tattoo?

A: Those are my daughter’s initials.

Q: How many tattoos do you have?

A: Ten, 15 — I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about my tattoos.

Q: While labelled as fiction, your novel is strewn with factoids about Los Angeles. It seems more akin to the non-literary fiction style of contemporary American pros like Joan Didion or the Mailers of the world. Were you going for something like that here?

[ click to continue reading interview ]

Posted on June 24, 2008 by Editor

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