Big Tears Mean Nothing (James Wolcott)

After the reading at HalfKing last night–my thanks and appreciation to everyone there for their generosity and bonhomie–I heard about the scandal that had burst in the literary world that day with the force of a warblogger’s bladder.

The Smoking Gun’s detailed expose of James Frey’s harrowing memoir A Million Little Pieces.

This and the J.T. Leroy put-on call into question not only the caliber of the literary-critical-publishing world’s bullshit detector but the desire of so many to accept as gospel and marrow truth that which is outre, transgressive, and self-promoting. Fashion yourself as “a survivor,” and voyeuristic readers will feel the excitement of a dangerous voyage with so many valuable lessons to be learned along the way. As Joy Press wrote in the Village Voice on the occasion of Leroy’s The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, “LeRoy’s books call like sirens to emotional tourists looking to vacation in someone else’s torment. Abuse, gender confusion, abandonment, prostitution, addiction—all the sensationalistic obsessions of our era, wrapped in one neat adolescent package.”



One thought on “Big Tears Mean Nothing (James Wolcott)

  1. From author/blogger Ron Franscell at …American literature — considered an oxymoron in the rest of the world — has gone downhill fast since New York surrendered America’s storytelling standards to Hollywood, where illusion — EVEN IN TRUE STORIES — is exactly the point. Today, the “perfect” story is determined by its film-worthiness more than its literary quality. In the name of creating Californicated literature, New York editors have blurred the line until even they don’t know what’s true. “It’s a good story,” they’ll say, “so who cares if it’s an utter and ballsy lie?”I care. Capote admitted on the bookjacket that “In Cold Blood” was fictionalized in some part. Coleridge’s definition of fiction was “the willing suspension of disbelief.” What if it’s not willing? That’s the difference between making love and rape, albeit without either the exhilaration or violence. If you thought you were reading a true story, you were conned. What if we found out next week that the famous Zapruder film was, in fact, a Hollywood dramatization passed off as a hyper-realistic eyewitness home-movie and you shoulda seen the look on your face and, oh, isn’t it funny how we fooled you??This is the literary equivalent of Reality TV. They tell you what you’re seeing is real, but it’s not real at all. It’s simulated reality, edited into convenient 30-minute bytes … and we eat it up.In America today, we live with too much fiction posing as fact. Blogs, books, politics, TV, videogaming, movies — and some would say, even the news — thrive on it. But it’s not art to swear you’re telling the truth and then fib. That’s just common lying. The artful trick is to tell me you’re lying and make me believe every word is true.

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