Saturday, January 28, 2006


Now that James Frey has been fried, we have a long-lost letter surfacing which questions author Upton Sinclair's ethics. Is that timing, or what?

Is this the beginning of open season on nonfic and memoir authors? Hard to say. Frey's faux past has stirred his colleagues to offer so many righteous and indignant rants that finding a hooker in a convent would likely cause less pious fuss. I do think the truth is important, even if it only serves as a cautionary tale for future writers. But when the soapbox becomes an open mike night stage, and those who climb on it start sounding like the cast of A Chorus Line, then it may be time to move on.

At least Oprah won't be able to book Sinclair on the show. Not without a backhoe, anyway -- he's been dead for 38 years.


  1. Anonymous2:20 AM

    At least Oprah won't be able to book Sinclair on the show. Not without a backhoe, anyway -- he's been dead for 38 years.

    So they'd need one less microphone.
    Bring him on. ;-)

  2. Anonymous5:29 AM

    I always assumed that in memoir/biographical writing there was an element of embellishment.

    The whole situation's laughable and pathetic, maybe some from the author's flappy excuses, but worse still from the offended hordes of readers. Honestly. Perspective.

    The new charge forward to scrutiny all others for complete honesty? COme on, I'm sure there's bigger issues in the world to be concerning oneself with.

    Basically, what a little storm in a bathtub.

    ( I never liked oprah, she always seems very histrionic and needy, and drama-mongering.)

  3. I don't think that Frey's sin can be compared to Sinclair's, if indeed Sinclair's sin even exists.

    Frey's writing in 'A Million Little Pieces' is crappy, and the only way the story has any resonance is if it is substantially true. It turns out that it is not substantially true, that big parts of it are made up from whole cloth, and that makes the story a poorly written potboiler rather than a searing memoir.

    Sinclair's case is completely different, and the only reason (I think) that it is making any sort of headway in the news is that some are trying to make some sort of political hay based on the fact that Sinclair was identified with the left.

    Personally, I don't see a single thing wrong with what Sinclair was alleged to have done.

  4. Last month I read "The Education of Little Tree" by Forrest Carter for the first time, and I really enjoyed it. This morning, I read about the real history behind the author... it really had me stumped. The most challenging part for me is the difference between the messages I read in the book, and the actions of the author in his lifetime.

    I never assume that just because something is in print, it is therefore indisputably true. Why do you think people assert themselves or their creations to be something other than what they are?

  5. Is it not possible that the lawyer mentioned in Sinclair's letter was himself lying? Sounds to me like a case of hearsay no matter how you slice it, that would never be accepted in court. So why all the hubub?

    The Frey thing is completely different. The perpetrator himself has confessed on national television.

  6. Anonymous8:54 AM

    If you ask me, Oprah doesn't have enough dead guests. I think it would improve the show. ^-*

  7. Anonymous2:15 AM

    HA! The simplicity of getting caught up in the whole JF controversy is trivial when compared to the thought I had when I read the title of this post: "Sinclair".

    Sinclair is a little town six miles east of Rawlins, Wyoming. The billboards that announce the town say that it is the most modern refinery in the west. That billboard has been there since I can recall passing it on I-80 some 23 years ago.

    My biggest fear isn't that some author has written a fictional account of non-fictional events and passed it off as non-fiction, but that Sinclair is the most modern refinery in the west and has been for the past 23 years. What does that say about our petroleum manufacturing ability?

    Food for thought. YMMV, but it's about 100 miles to anywhere from Rawlins.

    P.S. Food is usually taken with a grain of salt. [|:-{


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