A judge approved a settlement on Nov. 2 for readers who purchased James Frey’s bestselling memoir A Million Little Pieces before it was revealed that the author had fabricated many parts of the book. Publisher Random House will reimburse the 1,729 people who felt misled and joined the lawsuit the price of the book. Random House had set aside $2.35 million for the suit, but ended up spending a little over $1.4 million, including legal fees and donations they were ordered to pay three charities. Frey has earned $4.4 million in royalties from the book so far, and is currently working on a new novel.
What the commentators said
Not too many people seemed to “mind that James Frey lied to them,” said the blog Jossip, and the scandal and lawsuit really only served to put more money in his pockets. After the secret came out, Frey’s book “went on to sell almost 94,000 more copies. And even after Oprah, the most powerful woman in publishing trashed him, James Frey sold a novel to HarperCollins.” What’s the lesson to be learned here? “Honesty is overrated and people hate filling out forms.”
And it’s pretty unlikely that this verdict will make publishers “think twice before labeling their book a memoir,” said Mediabistro.com’s blog GalleyCat. As a matter of fact, “that genre accounts for eight of the 16 titles on this week’s New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list—nine if you’re feeling perverse enough to include If I Did It.” But let’s be fair: The likes of Alan Greenspan, Eric Clapton, Valerie Plame Wilson, and Nikki Sixx “all seem like sober, reliable narrators and not the sort of people who would ‘reframe’ events to make themselves more attractive or compelling figures in their own life story,” right?
This never should have been a big deal in the first place, said David Mehegan in The Boston Globe’s blog Off the Shelf. The fact that hardly anybody joined the lawsuit “should not come as a surprise, since many people care little whether the events recounted in a memoir are true or false.” After all, Frey’s “book was not a scholarly work, or a textbook.” It was just “entertainment, and people apparently saw it as such.”