Truly Bad Films

Friday, January 27, 2006

Oprah's Addiction

The real problem with the Million Little Pieces brouhaha is not that James Frey is a liar. It's that Oprah doesn't know good writing from dog doo on a stick.

I have not read the book. The subject didn't interest me, but the excerpts I read over at The Smoking Gun are so brain maimingly awful that I saw why 17 publishing houses rejected the fiction manuscript before it made the transformation to "non-fiction" in the twinkling of an editor's pen. And on top of being fecal-odor bad writing, to any sane person, it just doesn't ring true.

Take for example, the scene where he describes wearing clothes covered with "a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood."

ok - this one falls more under "Does Not Ring True" than it does "Dog Doo Writing." Unless he was drinking Pink Squirrels all night, I can't imagine what is so "colorful" about his bodily emissions. All the things he lists usually fade to muted earth tones when dry. Unless he was drinking something like borscht or using Sherwin-Williams as a mixer, dry spit isn't going to look like much. Ditto snot. It's more the texture of dried snot, than color, that sets you apart from the pack, if you choose to wear it. Urine doesn't dry out to much of a color either. It's the smell that people remember. Vomit only provides ample color under certain circumstances - and then it's usually one predominant color. There can be a confetti melee of bolds when it is wet, but this was presumeably dry and on a surface that had been vertical at some point. Blood dries brown. Nothing too colorful there either.

The thing about this quote that makes him a bad writer is that Frey is writing from his mind and not from life. He isn't observing. He's making things up as if illustrating a cartoon. It's easy to toss off a statement about the colorfullness of puke, blood, etc. but it is a lie because life isn't really like that. And, if Oprah could really read, she'd be able to suss the lie.

Next example:
As I was driving up, I saw her standing out front with a few of her friends. I was staring at her and not paying attention to the road and I drove up onto a sidewalk and hit a Cop who was standing there. I didn't hit him hard because I was only going about five miles an hour, but I hit him. The Cop called for backup and I sat in the car and stared at her and waited. The backup came and they approached the car and asked me to get out and I said you want me out, then get me out, you fucking Pigs. They opened the door, I started swinging, and they beat my ass with billy clubs and arrested me. As they hauled me away kicking and screaming, I tried to get the crowd to attack them and free me, which didn't happen.
He is not showing, he is telling . . . very badly. I wish I had a dollar for every "and" in this book! I'd be $12 richer on this paragraph alone . . . Let's continue.
About an hour after we got there, some Cops walk in with a Guy I'd never seen before. These were Small-Town Cops, fat stupid Assholes with mustaches and beer guts and badges. I knew them and they knew me. In the years I had spent in that Town, I had openly taunted them and had dared them to try and catch me on something, which they never had.
Dog Doo Writing - "Fat, stupid assholes" is lame, lazy writing. "With mustaches and beer guts," is a stereotype a third grader could see through. These are not real people. How do they ALL have beer guts and mustaches? Are they twins? Triplets? In real life people look different from each other. But don't let me forget "openly taunted them!" Tell me this - how do you taunt someone "closedly?" (Pointy-headed writer's note - it's also in passive voice which drives me BONKERS!!!)

You're a horrible writer, James Frey! A horrible, horrible writer. You are a pathetic reader, Oprah! PATHETIC!
"He carries it around with him, and cradles it as if it were his child."
Cradles it as if it were his child!? Gimme an everlasting break. A trip through cliché town, but not the first or last!!!

Now I get to diss the dialog. Get a load of this:
"Would you like to mount a defense?"
"It'd be a waste of time."
"Because I'm guilty of all the charges."

NObody - nobody talks like that! "Would you like to mount a defense?" Mount a defense?!? For the love of . . . James, real people say, "Aren't you going to fight it?" Not "mount a defense!"

"Because I'm guilty of all the charges" is so wooden it sounds like something from a stagey, self-conscious, bloated, badly writtten semi-autobiographical steaming puddle of Pink Squirrel puke with a dirty stick in the middle. Hey - wait!

Oprah - honey - I know you're trying to do the world some good by promoting literacy, but you need a full-time Reader's Advisor to pre-select your reading material before you fall on your ass in public again. It's a dirty little addiction, but lots of us share it. Just read your trash in private and keep it private. Then hire a Librarian, darlin'! Hire a Librarian!


At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen! I actually requested this book from the Library because Oprah made it sound so incredibly fantastic--after trudging through about 20 pages I had to stop because I hated hated hated the writing. And then when O had him on her show (the first time), I caught about 5 minutes of it on my dinner break and the whole time I'm thinking "this guy is lying through his teeth." What a douche.
Say hi to the cap'n ;)

At 10:43 PM, Anonymous keysunset said...

I haven't read "Million Little Pieces", but I tried to read "Running With Scissors" - another "memoir" with controvesy now surrounding it. A lawsuit too I believe.

I managed to get through 87 pages, not even to the end of a chapter, before I bailed. DYS-funtional situations can be interesting and instructional, but this was way over the top. Horribly crude language can be useful, but not when it is so overused that it feels like the author is just doing it for shock value. I can string situations and words together, let me find a publisher.

Where's the beef? That's what I want to know in these books ....

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Chai-rista said...

Pep tried to read something by the guy who wrote Running With Scissors and he couldn't even take 87 pages of it . . .


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