Read from my former Sun colleague Adam Kirsch the smartest take on what has happened since the Smoking Gun declared James Frey a fake and rumors began to fly that Random House would offer refunds. Too often in this consumer-driven market do writers cower in the face of editors who seem to want something marketable that simply doesn't exist. And too often does the commercial book world--and that's a different place than the literary world--force people to choose fiction or non. Kirsch's point is well-taken: If Frey lived 50 years ago, he would have just written his book with different cultural references, called it a novel, and been a pop author with hardly decent sales. As he should be. When I was in grad school, the celebrated creative non-fictionist Vivian Gornick, who taught me a class, admitting to fudging facts. She wasn't alone then, and she isn't alone now. Many famous New Yorker writers, from Alastair Reed to others I can't ethically mention here (for fear of some powerful ex-mentors flipping out all over me), have had similar crises. Of course, these are true literary figures, and their writing holds up, true or untrue. I guess that's the issue. That, and the fact that their works didn't sell--or, rather, attempt to sell--like Frey's did, which cashed its checks on its portrayal of a real story. Hell: Let's just start a new "creative non-fiction" category for everyone, throw pop and literary works into it, force dollar-happy publishers who sell it all to fact-check everything (i.e. if we can't trust the New York Times anymore, who's stupid enough to have ever trusted profit-hungry Random House?), and stop this nonsense once and for all. All the chips will fall where they should, reputations will last or they won't, and life will go on. Trust me.
And P.S. If, for some reason, you liked Frey's book, who cares if it's true or not? Sure, he's a lying shmuck, but the book is still a book, and you liked it. So keep on liking it. You're you, and that's fine.