What makes truth, truth?

So the fascination with James Frey’sbook A Million Little Pieces has died down by now. Thank goodness. While reading the novel, I found myself appalled. I kept on asking myself “is this possible? It can’t be true.” Then the news broke. James Frey had made up some of the story. My heart dropped. Can this be true? I was hoping it to be another plot to destroy the life of a talented writer. There must be some credit given especially if you’ve got Oprah sitting in front of you and practically ripping the pages out of the book. It’s pretty tough to bend the truth, but what exactly is the truth? Are we able to see the man behind the tale? Does it all come down to what a writer knows? So Oprah retracted her original statement. At first, she supported the book. She launched Frey’s career. The New York Times wrote, “Ms. Winfrey’s enthusiastic endorsement helped the book to sell more than two million copies last year, making it the second-highest-selling book of 2005.” That’s a lot. If I could sell two million copies of a book I call my autobiography, then I would have made it. If James Frey wants to lie about his own life then let him lie. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not he’s lying. It’s his life; emphasis on life. No one else can vouch that it’s true besides the characters.

Then comes the question of truth. Does it have to be true? Is lying about a life of drug abuse, criminal acts, and psychotherapy considered faulty, vulgar, or even offensive to those who have gone through these same struggles? My thoughts: I think you’ve got to do the only thing you can to grab the audience. In a world where some simple movie about a little girl popping out of tv screens and killing people in seven days doesn’t scare people, you have to think up of anything that will attract an audience. So James Frey did just that. He wrote a memoir loosely based on his life and added some zings and twists just to shake the world. And no matter how much a person can disapprove, it worked. I mean look at it; Oprah was even duped to believing this really happened. Lies, no matter how false can always be turned into truth. It’s just the way a writer utilizes his words. And now look at him. His books might be banned from book outlets, but the money is still reeling in. People will probably talk about how James Frey was able to fool the great Oprah.

All this talk about truth and lies brings up the issue with another true liar or shall I say a real writer. A young man by the name J.T. Leroy confesses his true story. He was a teenage hustler, but not in the Cassidy sense. His mother pimped him out for money at truck stops, he was introduced to drugs, sex, and the wildest of lives in his childhood. Rescued by a therapist at the age of 13 or 14, Leroy wrote his first book Sarah based on the story of his real mother. The book was notably followed by his other big book The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, which is now a movie starring Asia Argento. All this information didn’t just come to me one night. I did my research after watching the gripping trailer for the movie. There was something about that trailer that really grabbed me, and it was the fact that J.T. Leroy doesn’t really exist. 

I sat at my desk with my jaw on the ground. “He isn’t real?” I couldn’t believe it for the life of me. I had to look up the truth and with my researching expertise, the truth was revealed. J.T. Leroy was not real. He wasn’t even a man! The New York Times writes, “the public role of JT Leroy is played by Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey Knoop’s half sister, who is in her mid-20’s.” The public figure, that means there must be a writer who writes all of his/her novels. Although suspicions lead towards Geoffrey Knoop’s partner, Laura Albert, according to my research she’s still undiscovered. Now, if the world has to hate one man, it should be Leroy. Frey lied about his truth, but Leroy doesn’t even breathe. And oddly enough, this information is revealed after the revelation about Frey’s book. Suddenly, it’s like the world was after any writer with a past. Can you say that this is the truth? Is it possible that the truth is so boring that Frey and Leroy had to create these personas in order to grab the audience?

I read these books and I’m enraptured by their words. Frey might not have been completely true about his drug addiction, his trips to prison and the death of his girlfriend, but at least he’s got the guts to talk about whatever is true. If I had a complicated past like that, I would keep it hush hush. I would categorize my book as fiction and deny it ever happening to me. “Years of research,” I would tell my fans if they asked about the book. Truth doesn’t have the same connotation as it did in the past. Truth was even hard for Gandhi to find in the east with non-violent resistance. Maybe the truth for Gandhi was that you can never stop violence. It’s just a part of us. If that was the truth, then Gandhi was just lying to himself. I’m probably lying to you now, but you wouldn’t know. I’m a writer. I write the stories, you read them, and you judge whether it’s truth or not. How does one person like Oprah determine what is truth and what is absurdity. So Oprah was lied to. She had Tom Cruise jump on her couch. I would question his truths over Frey’s.

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