Today’s Imaginary Conversation With James Frey

You may or may not have heard about this James Frey business.

The author of the memoir A Little Million Pieces (which was chosen by Orpah for her Book Club), he’s sold over 3.5 million books since Harpo spoke up for him. But the Smoking Gun reports that his “memoir” is riddled with lies — sparking a huge drama that continues to unfold. Even his publisher (and mine), Random House, is now offering refunds to pissed off readers.

Fortunately, I was able to snag an interview with Mr. Frey yesterday evening (I think it was the Random House connection), and so I’d like to present that to you here today…

Me: “Well, first of all – congratulations on the best-seller. That’s wonderful.”

James Frey: “Thanks. I’m continually stunned. Seventeen million books is a lot to sell!”

Me: “I thought you sold 3.5 million books.”

James Frey: “Nope. Twenty-five million and counting.”

Me: “You just said seventeen million a second ago and now you’re saying twenty-five million?”

James Frey: “Twenty-five million books? Who told you that number?”

Me: “YOU DID. Like five seconds ago!”

James Frey: “Paul, are you trying to force me into making a mistake or something? You know, Larry King tried to do that earlier today when I appeared on his show but I wasn’t having any of it. A Pulitzer Prize winning author, after all, has to be smarter than that, don’t you think? Like MENSA smart.”

Me: “Who’s a Pulitzer Prize winning author?”

James Frey: “Uh, somebody is. Somewhere.”

Me: “Oooo…K. Well, let’s get back to this whole controversy about the book and the allegations that the contents of the book aren’t totally completely true.”

James Frey: “I apologize, but I promised Random House that I wouldn’t speak in public on that subject.”

Me: “Isn’t going on Larry King and talking about it…sort of speaking in public about it?”

James Frey: “Larry who?”

Me: “KING. Larry King.”

James Frey: “I don’t know any Larry King.”

Me: [Sigh]

James Frey: “Do you have any questions for me about the book? Anything?”

Me: “Uh, sure. Was it fun writing the book? Were there any moments that you wrote about that you included in the book that have had any lasting emotional resonance on you and your life?”

James Frey: “Well, there are a lot of those in the book, Paul — but there was one experience which is covered in the book that really changed who I am today. I had just flown into Los Angeles for Christmas to visit my wife — her company she works for was having this huge blowout for the holidays. First of all, know that I was not planning on doing any drugs or drinking alcohol at this party. Anyway, I get there and I’m showering in her personal shower back in her office when I hear this chaos outside in the main area where the party is going on. I was stunned. I look out there and do you know what I see? A group of international terrorists have busted into the company, they’re holding guns and explosives and at the time I had no idea what the hell was going on. But I wasn’t going to let them get me. I had to do something about it. So I slipped into the air ducts and did my best to stop them. It was a chaotic experience, but before long I had sabotaged their whole plan, contacted a local LAPD officer who was able to bring in the calvary, and I even blew up a portion of the building in the process. It was wild. But in the end, I was able to save the hostages, reunite with my wife and put the evil mastermind behind the whole plan, whose name was Hans Gruber, behind bars. Whew. Just gets my adrenaline pumping when I talk about it.”

Me: “You just described DIE HARD.”

James Frey: “No I didn’t. And what the hell is DIE GUARD?”

Me: “DIE HARD. It’s a movie. Starring Bruce Willis.”

James Frey: “No. That was my life.”

A long beat.

Me: “Great. Thanks for your time.”

James Frey: “No problem, Paul.”

46 comments on “Today’s Imaginary Conversation With James Frey

  1. kristine - January 12, 2006 at 8:12 am -

    James Frey is totally gonna get his drug-lord connections on your ass. Or, like, the assistant from his local pharmacy.

    I kinda feel bad for this guy. How did he not see this coming? Another reason to despise Oprah, as I see it.

  2. Kristi - January 12, 2006 at 8:13 am -

    I find it hard to believe someone embellishing on the truth of their own life just to make a few extra bucks. That’s unheard of!

    I’m pretty sure the term for the book he wrote is “fiction”, but one man’s fiction is another man’s deluded autobiographic memoir. He says tomato, I say fraud. It’s a fine line.

  3. Dave2 - January 12, 2006 at 8:45 am -

    I can’t wait for the James Frey blog! It is certain to be far, far more exciting than anything we could come up with from real life!

  4. Flower Girl - January 12, 2006 at 8:46 am -

    Hmmm…how about this for a storyline for a book or movie: Guy writes novel, gets fame and money, writes a sequel, gets fame and money, THEN writes a third book about how sorry he was that one of his other personalities was a compulsive liar and made the first two books up…

  5. Keith - January 12, 2006 at 8:50 am -

    Wait… I think I know this guy! He told me he invented electricity! I was so excited to tell all my friends that I met the guy who invented electricity… are you saying it was all a lie? Man, I feel dumb now.

  6. annabel lee - January 12, 2006 at 8:53 am -

    Thank goodness we have hard-hitting interviewers like Pauly to ask the tough questions for us!

  7. Pauly D - January 12, 2006 at 8:56 am -

    I’m here for all of you. Every last one of you.

  8. Kevin - January 12, 2006 at 9:21 am -

    Thank you so much! Since I missed the Larry King interview (I was TiVo’ing Veronica Mars and Lost), it’s nice to see that you are there to keep me “in the loop,” per se.

    Very well done interview. Keep asking the hard questions and don’t let punks like Frey get away with their doublespeak.

  9. C(h)ristine - January 12, 2006 at 9:55 am -

    *peal of laughter*

  10. Jacquie - January 12, 2006 at 10:06 am -

    I will never trust James again! Thankyou for the stunning eye opener PD.

  11. Melina - January 12, 2006 at 10:11 am -


  12. the swede - January 12, 2006 at 10:11 am -

    I never even heard of this guy before yesterday, so I don’t feel cheated in the least. But I’ll say this: Oprah’s ok in my book, but people put WAY too much faith in that woman. Her name is, after all, Oprah. Not Our Prophet and Savior. Wait… you say that is her name? Now I feel confused…

    Hey. Pauly, you should write a book about when you invented the internet, by the way. And how you came up with the idea of people keeping online diaries of sorts (it’s called Blogging, right?). And don’t forget to cash in on your story about that time when you saved the president and his family from terrorists onboard Air Force One.

    I’m going to write a best seller about that time I was Queen of Sweden. The story really should be told, and it could change people’s lives and inspire others to give up crime and drugs. I mean, inspire others to rule countries.

  13. C(h)ristine - January 12, 2006 at 10:13 am -

    btw, did you ever read Frey’s essay on the randomhouse site? in the essay, he describes writing MLP and more than once expounds on how the memoir “came from the heart” and that he “tried to be true” blah blah blah.

    what a load of crap! i first read the essay this past Autumn. and used it as inspiration. but now i feel cheated.

  14. shawna - January 12, 2006 at 11:25 am -

    james frey got all his ideas from me, i hate james frey now.

  15. Alissa - January 12, 2006 at 11:43 am -

    Wow, I’ve never heard of a writer (or blogger) ever embellishing a story. He will definitely go to hell for this (not for all of the things he did and describes in the book – only for this).

  16. ms. sizzle - January 12, 2006 at 11:55 am -

    who cares if it is lies or not? it a damn good book, a riveting story. sure, he shouldn’t have said it was a memoir then but… don’t we have better things to discuss? like angelina and brad and the bun in the oven?

    😉 sizz

  17. Hope - January 12, 2006 at 12:04 pm -

    That guy’s a lying thief! Everyone KNOWS “Die Hard” was totally based on the life of Mr. George W. Bush.

  18. Amber - January 12, 2006 at 12:27 pm -

    Is this about current events? Things that happen outside my own little world? Huh. I’m not familiar with that concept. And frankly, I just don’t like it.

    It reminds me of the time I went to prison (wrongfully) for killing my wife and her lover. After many years, I finally tunnelled through the wall using only a small rock hammer, crawled through the sewer, and then eventually ended up on a beach. This was of course, after I stole all the money the warden had been pocketing. I’ll tell you, I was unfamiliar with the concept of the outside world then, and I still am now.

  19. Barney - January 12, 2006 at 1:18 pm -

    hey pauly….maybe we can get you on oprah.

  20. Pauly D - January 12, 2006 at 2:34 pm -

    C(h) – Never read his essay, but I suspect it’s probably not up there any longer.

    Shawna – Can we set up an imaginary interview with you, as well?

    Alissa – I should probably come clean and tell you that every post I’ve ever written under the “Imaginary Conversation” header have all been fake fake fake fake fake (x5). Sorry to burst your digital bubble.

    Ms. Sizzle – Stay tuned for my interview with “the bun in the oven” (a.k.a. Mini-Pitt) next week. One little tidbit – the little one does not like being named after bread.

    Hope – Excuuuuuse you. But Die Hard wasn’t based on W. It was based on Cheyney. That guy IS a badass, no matter what political party you belong to, you have to agree you’d never want to get your ass kicked by him.

    Amber – You have a wife?

    Barney – From your lips to God’s ears. Can we start a petition for this, as well — in addition to the one about the font and some other post that I can’t even recall at the moment?

  21. Jaclyn - January 12, 2006 at 7:28 pm -

    Amber. OMG, like, your life sounds almost exactly like the Shawshank Redemption! Wow. Did they base the screenplay off your memoir?

  22. Jaclyn - January 12, 2006 at 7:28 pm -

    Oh, and if they did…can I have your autograph?

  23. justin - January 12, 2006 at 8:01 pm -

    For a hardcore thug, Frey’s got one hell of a girly voice.

  24. Esmee - January 12, 2006 at 8:55 pm -

    Hey Pauly, in the future, when I am embroiled in a huge scandel and am forced to go on Oprah in order to lie through my teeth, please remember that during my imaginary interview, I would like to credit myself with the invention of rivets (the kind on jeans) and the sale of 36.7 million books, even if I’ve never written one. A friendly reminder.

  25. Smoog - January 12, 2006 at 10:38 pm -

    Congratulations to James Frey for stamping down the nefarious threat of honesty in memoir. No longer must we live in fear of being emotionally scarred by discovering the actual, literal truth that Dan Rather wears diapers or Barbara Walters is a sex fiend. Up with self-aggrandizement!

  26. C(h)ristine - January 12, 2006 at 11:00 pm -

    oh, the essay’s still up there on the randomhouse site! it’s a bit nauseating to read it now, knowing he fictionalized his account (in his essay he goes on and on about his struggles, being sincere as a writer, being true to himself).

    he is a liar. but then again, behavior predicts. isn’t his entire book about his addiction (a significant portion of which consists of lying to oneself and others).

    it is a big deal to me, as an artist, that he marketed this as truth and it is indeed fictionalized. if this book were fiction, i am not quite sure it would be the bestseller it is.

  27. the swede - January 12, 2006 at 11:39 pm -

    Does this mean we can all write fiction, call it autobiographical and have a national best seller on our hands?

    I guess the answer to that question is: I’m Frey’d not.

  28. Kat - January 13, 2006 at 12:43 am -

    well…since we’re all coming clean:
    I used to be a mermaid, and I fell in love with this tall, dark handsome dude (who happened to be a prince), and an evil lady said I could have legs, but I had to give up my voice in the process. and let me tell you, my voice rocked. Anyway, just about when me and dude were going to fall in love, the evil lady turned into a pretty lady, but my fish friends helped save the day, and then my dad let me keep my legs and stay with the dude, and I got to talk again.

    But everything turned to crap. My ‘so-called’ prince turned out to be a drunken sailor, and we ended the relationship. Now I have a blog, and I sing out of tune.

    WHEW. glad I got THAT off my chest.

  29. B. Hummel - January 13, 2006 at 4:17 am -

    Paul, you are hil-FREAKIN-larious, really you are.

  30. amanda - January 13, 2006 at 6:44 am -

    um, yeah, i feel it necessary to say i read the book before oprah book clubbed it. but, man, that guy was pretty smug on LK and on Oprah.

  31. Tex - January 13, 2006 at 9:50 am -

    Anyone see “The Last Samurai”? Tom Cruise totally ripped off my life story… I’m so annoyed…

  32. CD - January 13, 2006 at 3:49 pm -

    Who exactly at TSG did Frey piss off to get on their shit list?! I read the book, pre-Oprah, and loved it. Recommended to friends and family, who read it and also loved it. It’s not a self-help book, so I’m kind of missing the controversy.

  33. Thoughtsgalore - January 13, 2006 at 6:38 pm -

    On a side note….Do you think the beard covers the hole in his cheek? LOL…Hmmm….I say he shaves it and we look for the scar!

  34. Lena - January 13, 2006 at 7:34 pm -

    Okay, here’s my only question on the subject: How can his PARENTS sit on Oprah and go along with this? What kind of parents lie about their son being a criminal? He just wasn’t doin them proud enough with the medicre drug use, I guess. They were really hoping for some hard core incarceration. Are they that hard up for the silver package at the Shady Grove Retirement Home?

  35. Prentiss - January 14, 2006 at 2:54 pm -

    Back in the fall, I grabbed James Frey’s book at Borders and started reading a bit after Oprah selected it for her book club. I couldn’t get past the first twenty pages beacuse it was so – blecchhh. Kind of like when you get a sandwich that has way too much mayo on it. I couldn’t pinpoint what bothered me about the book but I thought it was a load of crap. Then I saw him on Oprah and thought he was really smug. For the next few months, the book was a big success and I bit my lip around the ladies at church who were calling this book “so amazing”. Well, now I’m glad to know other people also think the book is full of cliches, stereotypes and way too familiar story-arcs. I told my completely disinterested husband this: If I had to make up a story about myself living a thug life and then getting clean, this is eaxcatly how I would write it. But the problem is I’m a 34 year old stay-at-home mom in a mini-van….

  36. the name game » required reading - January 16, 2006 at 9:02 am -

    […] and top it all off with a little Imaginary Conversation with James Frey via Words for My Enjoyment. […]

  37. jj14268 - January 20, 2006 at 11:09 am -

    That imaginary conversation was hurtful. hurtful and curt
    So i cried and i sat and i cried and i cried from the hurt and the hurtfullness of the Hurting.
    all i could do was cry. and sit.
    and be hurt.
    ouch. pain pain pain pain pain.
    i miss lilly.
    if she only existed we Would still be together and she would hug me and i would hug her and eat a Sandwich and throw up.
    Throw up and eat a sandwich.
    a sandwich of hurt.

  38. Anonymity is important - January 21, 2006 at 5:38 pm -

    i couldn’t care less if the entire drug addiction was false. it is one of the best books ive ever read. and if it were categorized as fiction, i would still think it was one of the best books.

    stop judging this man

  39. Anonymity is important - January 21, 2006 at 5:40 pm -

    or maybe im just too young to understand…

  40. anjee - January 26, 2006 at 2:51 pm -

    Regardless of all the white lies, my opinion of this book will not change. So what if he lied about some parts, it was still a great book & I have learned from it. Even though it’s not real to many of the readers, it definitely was real in my mind.

  41. MillionLittleLiar - January 26, 2006 at 3:30 pm -

    What a putz. If he’d just called it “embellished reality” or pushed the book as half-truth, the idiot wouldn’t even be in this mess. But to go on LKL and completely deny all of the allegations, with his mom or somebody sitting there nodding like another idiot, I don’t feel bad for him at all.

    And dang is it funny that Oprah just wouldn’t believe that it wasn’t true. She just about thinks she’s God at this point, eh?

    You’ve had your 10 seconds James Frey. See ya.

  42. MillionLittleLiar - January 26, 2006 at 3:34 pm -


    In regard to your comments:
    “So what if he lied about some parts, it was still a great book & I have learned from it. Even though it’s not real to many of the readers, it definitely was real in my mind.”

    It matters a lot if he lied. I’m sure you love Bill Clinton too, but they’re both still idiots, liars, and not worth the time that’s already been spent on them. And if lies and made-up imaginary stories are “real in your mind”, then I would avoid watching Teletubbies.

  43. scott - January 27, 2006 at 11:33 am -

    who gives a shit if he lied or not! if its a good book, and it helps people with thier lives then why does it matter? why do people always try to bring others who succeed down? your just gelous cuz he wrote a good story and made a lot of money and you dont have anything better to do than rip on him. its a memoir and you should have seen it coming

  44. DEBBIE - January 29, 2006 at 8:10 pm -

    so he lied bottom line the book was great start to finish.
    i am more dissapointed at oprah on the way she treated him. she wouldnt let him finsh his answer and talked about him with other guest as if he wasnt there. I have read some journalist stories and know for a fact they wrote things that were not true. any thing to sell an artical. You have to give him credit for showing up on oprah knowing what he was up against.

  45. Jess - January 30, 2006 at 9:19 pm -

    James Frey is a Fraud pure and simple.
    I think it is great that some people can continue to read his work even though they know the truth. If you can enjoy the book as fiction, great. But I can’t.
    I was about half way through the book when I heard about the frey scandel, and it changed the way I read it.
    I could handle the repeats. Silly as I was I thought it was a glimpse into his mindset, being stuck inside himself and if constant pain. After knowing it was all fabricated all I wanted to do was throw it away.

    James Frey enjoy your money…

    But you will never live your life ‘honourably and with dignity’

  46. jihad - February 1, 2006 at 11:30 am -

    no way, an author made up something to write a book? Unhear of! i just can’t believe it! I now have to be totally judgemental about this so i wont have to think about my own pathetic life anymore. for God’s sake judge this comment so you can be affected by my thoughts, ha-ha controlling your emotions. Thanks for the power!

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