BOOKS, TRUTH AND RADIOWAVES
Last night I was asked by the BBC World Service to appear on The World Tonight discussing author James Frey's memoir of drug addiction, 'One Million Little Pieces'. I haven't read the book but it's a bestseller in the States and there's been some controversy since it was discovered that he's bent the truth a good deal in writing it. I do think that memoir as a genre is a grey area between autobioigraphy and fiction where the most important thing is the literary text in its own right. The idea of readers demanding a refund because a book isn't true is hilarious. Most importantly I think readers should be reassured that what counts is the authenticity of their personal response to the book. Okay so it looks like this guy has fibbed somewhat, but there's no shame in being moved by Anna Karenin's suicide just because she's only pretend.
I think my favourite book of 2005 was Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, an awesome and imaginary memoir of life growing up in a Nazi-friendly USA. It's clearly labelled fiction, but the brilliance is in the way Roth mixes childhood reminiscence of dark basements and eccentric aunts with big world events - such as President Lindburgh's flight to Germany for talks with the Fuhrer. 100% fiction - or your money back!!
Booktrust planning meeting, Jan 2006