“Fabricating events in a memoir can have serious consequences for readers as well as for the author.”
Niki Shisler in The Guardian:
Does it really matter whether a memoir is embellished? Frey’s “recovery” from drug and alcohol addiction is, according to him, “the primary focus of the book”. I have been in recovery for over a decade, so I know that it’s life-and-death stuff. One of Frey’s key themes is that he “recovered” by force of will alone. No AA, no 12 steps, no support group; just him and his demons. The message is that if he can drag himself out of the pit of hell, then anyone can. Except he didn’t.
Just think how dangerous that is. Addicts and alcoholics are desperate vulnerable people; if you’re going to offer them a way out, you’d better be certain it works. But how can you be, if you haven’t walked the path? The reader reviews for Frey’s book on Amazon contain this nugget: “I’ve been to four funerals in the last 12 months. One of them was a guy who dropped out of AA/NA after reading Frey’s crap – before it had been exposed as a fraud. He decided to follow Frey’s advice … He lasted about three months before he got high again. He was dead two months after that.”
Frey claims his memoir has “emotional truth”. But “emotional truth” is meaningless when it’s woven around events that bear no relation to reality – unless you’re writing fiction. This memoir was touted around publishers as a novel for a long time, unable to get a publishing deal. That should tell us everything.The book only works because we believe he really lived it. As fiction, it simply wasn’t good enough.