Monday, January 30, 2006

Trey Freys-In

Even though the topic has engaged minds as formidable as Lillet's and Kate's and Spillah's, I have been until recently unable to give a shit about James Frey's lies, mostly because I was not aware of them. This kind of thing will happen a lot. Lillet will come home from work and start to talk about something of contemporary import and I will have to stop her and say, "Wait, honey ... Who's James Frey? Who's Jude Law and what's this about a nanny? Who is Terri Schiavo and why is her name Italian for 'I am your slave?'"

I count on Lillet to keep me from complete absorption into a world of abstraction, but this time it was Oprah who woke me from my dogmatic slumber. What got my attention was this photograph.

"Tough guy image." Yeah, sure thing, Jimbo. Nice Dockers.

Consensus is (I gather) that Frey was publicly humiliated by Oprah. And of course he was. But has no one yet noticed how impressive this is on Frey's part? What a victory it is for him?

Look at the body language here. Have you ever seen a man with such a profound desire to get spanked? James Frey thinks big. He doesn't take his debit card and go looking for a dominatrix on No, James Frey gets himself spanked on national TV. By Oprah. Wow.

I suppose the question remains of whether or not authors and publishers ought to peddle fiction as fact. But I think we're better off wondering whether authors and publishers ought to peddle such ill-written drivel as serious writing. In reading some bits of his book I'm not offended by the possibility that none of this may have happened to James Frey; I'm offended because he and Nan Talese think that I or anyone else might have found this bullshit interesting in any way at all.

A few years ago a friend of ours was pondering a film adaptation of a book. She had befriended the author and wanted me to meet him, thinking that we would be fast friends. "You have so much in common," she said, and told me the story of how as a teenager in New York he was reading Tropic of Cancer on the subway and was inspired in that moment to become a writer. I told her that I had had the very same experience, but that it was not so much a desire to emulate Henry Miller as it was a feeling of responsibility to help shovel his steaming feces off the literary landscape.

Novels can be as mendacious as non-fiction. Frey is now trying to deflect blame by telling us that he first presented his book to publishers as a novel. But had it been so published it would not have been any less dishonest. Really, who fucking cares whether or not Frey actually slugged a cop? What is interesting is what Frey means to tell us by telling us that he slugged a cop or that his girlfriend died or that he had an anesthetic-free root canal.

This is where the lie lies, not in the lack of correspondence between words and facts, but in the genre itself. Frey is just the latest in a long line of suburban white boys who have play-acted at rebellion against the supposed sterility of their upbringing by making contact with its shadow in the form of drugs, transgressive sex, and getting fired from their jobs at Kinko's. It is all, in the end, a whole lot closer to John Cheever than it is to Iceberg Slim.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. If Frey told us — through fiction or non- — what it is like to be the kind of person who ends up wanting to get spanked on national TV by Oprah I don't think anyone would have any problem with him or his books. But what he wrote does nothing like that. It only presents a romanticized character to the public (and to Frey himself, for whatever sad reasons he may have), a character that illuminates nothing.

The truth of Frey's reportage in the mundane sense ought not to be an issue at all. William Burroughs really was a junkie and really did shoot his wife, but there is nothing in his pounds and pounds of crypto-totalitarian typing that tells any truth about himself, about us, or about a world that could create a monstrosity like William Burroughs. David Foster Wallace — who I'm sure never put a needle in his arm — has more to say about the nature of addiction and its relevance to our culture in just some brief passages of Infinite Jest than is said in all of Junky and Naked Lunch combined.

People aren't angry at Frey for lying to them; people are angry at Frey because his lying seems to rob legitimacy from their unlived lives. Oprah on the other hand is angry at Frey for lying. The fact-or-fiction question is crucial to Oprah because the distinction is at the heart of the culture of recovery that her empire is built upon.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lillet's Secrets For A Sex-Sational Marriage!

1) Let your husband "discover" you in the bedroom, clad only in a necklace and THESE:

Trust me.

Friday, January 27, 2006

You Have A Point There

a very good one.

If Oprah decided to take down James Frey based in part on zillions of e-mails from viewers and employees of Hazelden, perhaps if me, you and everyone we know sends her this, we'd get an even more special episode?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Almost As Painful As A Root Canal Sans Novocaine

is watching James Frey get grilled on a very special Oprah. I've never seen or heard him speak before -- he has a terrifically flat affect and a wholly unpleasant nasal, mincing voice (that would give my husband, being hyper-sensitive to vocal timbre, a mortal case of the heebie-jeebies!)

I am embarrassed to say that James Frey is reminding me of an actor/former junkie/ possible current or former alcoholic -- I do not know as we are no longer in touch -- that I dated somewhat seriously for a time. It's funny, but although I am very comfortable discussing drug addiction, talking about alcoholism to newly reformed alcoholics makes my skin crawl. When my mother was drinking all the time and doing horrible things wasn't as difficult as when she joined AA and started talking about her disease and higher power and shit all the time -- as if I was supposed to reward her for achieving some kind of baseline functionality, conveniently retaining no memory of all the things she had done. It's a lot to ask of a 13 year old. As an adult I am far more forgiving, but as a child, it was kind of like that Chris Rock routine, about "how come black people always acting all proud of shit you SUPPOSED to do?" "Hey, I ain't never been in jail!" "You SUPPOSED to stay out of jail! WHAT THE FUCK?"

My real motivation to never become an alcoholic is and has always been to avoid ever having to go to AA. Although there are periods where I have come somewhat close, I can with all honesty say that I am not. I can see that parallel-universe Lillet, who even holds my hand in the front seat at times -- I've learned to be kind to her, and make her laugh, but I'll never allow her to drive.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel Of Bullet-Riddled Fish

From Laura Sinagra's review of the Billy Joel concert in The New York Times:

A surprisingly agile "We Didn't Start the Fire" was animated by a bright, pleasing synth tone that recalled bouncing 80's dance-pop.
Ummm, isn't that godawful song NOTHING BUT bright 80s dancepop synths? That's all the fuck it IS. What other Mensa-calibre exegeses can we expect next?

A surprisingly ill-at-ease Cat Power sang a bunch of sad-sounding songs

A suprisingly ovoid, red lycopene-rich assembly of fruits was discovered in the produce section, that recalled nothing so much as a whole mess o' tomatoes.

Friday, January 20, 2006


It is Friday night, and I am at home. Not knitting, sort of cleaning, sort of working on a song. Feeling a bit -- not blue, but not sure what, exactly, that we have returned to our routine, assuming memory and mortal, mortal fatigue, too-aware of the momentum we must now conserve and build upon. Trey is back at work. And I'm dieting and not supposed to drink, and can't bring myself to get riled up about the usual crap. I feel -- flat. I lay on the floor.

It would be easy, especially if I were drunk, to coax this flatness to resemble the old wound, the familiar knife on which you pivot. But I can't, don't care to. That wound no longer lies behind that particular door.

I remember my acting teacher telling me how emptiness was a gift, and how I learned that to be true. The moment you accepted that you were blocked, could even visualise the block as a large mass in your chest, see the edge under your clavicles, something would open up and deepen: the obstruction became the hidden door -- Tomorrow we go to my mother-in-law's birthday dinner. Mother-in-law. I have one. I am a grown lady with a mother-in-law. A husband. A honeymoon. We will have a child. I have a job. I am grown. I am yet my same self. All the Lillets at once. There is no compulsion in this moment. And the flatness suddenly buckles and yields its gift -- it reminds --

that these words, these facts, do not chafe or diminish or misrepresent or restrict -- it is like memorizing lines -- lines you commit to heart and incorporate and in doing so you are freer than you could ever be otherwise for the momorized lines are the trellis the conduit for the real life -- like a poem -- the constraints are what electrify. Every actor knows that when you have it down, you are the most surprised and surprising, engaged and engaging, electrified and electrifying, free -- when you are committed -- And the apartment blooms around me once again, as if the power came back on.

And then know anew these two things to be the same:

The little white dog on the Victor label
Listens long and hard as he is able.
It's all in a day's work, whatever plays.


Yes I said Yes I will Yes.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"¡Si, Es Nuestra Luna De Miel!"

[Photo of Lillet and Trey taken at Aviarios Del Caribe, the best place in the world.]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Assuming Memory And Mortal Fatigue

Trey and I returned from our honeymoon last night. Costa Rica is the most beautiful place I have ever been. I couldn't have asked for a dreamier honeymoon!

Nine of our nights there we slept under mosquito netting, separated from the outside by windowscreens or nothing at all. Our first night we were overwhelmed by the lack of ambient light and the incredible array of noises. We are accustomed to the rumbling of trucks, of our landlord's son yelling incoherently outside our window or stumbling up the stairs -- not the eight million nocturnal voices of the Central Valley.

The second night, I woke up scared because something was rustling all around our cabin and actually asked Trey to look outside with a flashlight, I am embarrassed to say. But after that, it was amazing to fall asleep when it was dark to the sound of the ocean, to wake to birdsong, the crow of an actual cock, the lightening of the sky.

One thing that saddened me a bit was how I had to resort to technological metaphors to gush over the natural phenomena. Upon my first sighting of a Scarlet Rumped Tanager, I thought the bird had been banded. The Montezuma Oropendola has a cry that sounds like Trey's cell phone powering up -- there were birds that sounded like "a video game when you lose a life," the bird that sounded like Trey's digital camera, the breathtaking leaf-cutter ant colony that was like "that factory in Metropolis", the dragonfly that looked like "Tinkertoys" or "something from The Sharper Image". The bird we referred to as "the liquid bird," who woke us every morning with a piercing series of lush triplets was revealed to be the Riverside Wren. And lo! all the literary references to wrens made sense, those metaphors blushed at last with real meaning.

My sense of hearing changed so much over the course of our trip -- so much so, that, frozen and sleepy in the back of our cab last night, traveling away from LaGuardia, I heard a full and melancholy sound, a resonant wail that reminded me of the sweet-tempered weimariner at Aviarios del Caribe asking me to play fetch-the-coconut with her one last time. I turned around to find the voice's source.

It was an ambulance.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Plot Thickens

My goodness! Look at the e-mail I received from The American Family Association!
Ask potential advertisers not to sponsor 'The Book of Daniel'
Main character says if the show offends some Catholics, "I don't really care..."

Dear Lillet,

Visit the new AFA Superstore today! Despite receiving nearly a half-million emails, NBC still intends to begin their new series The Book of Daniel next Friday. While NBC refuses to release the sponsors of the program, AFA has identified 10 potential sponsors. Send them an email asking them not to sponsor the show. Ask local advertisers on your NBC affiliate to pull their advertising from the local station if they carry The Book of Daniel.

The network is promoting "The Book of Daniel" as a serious drama about Christian people and the Christian faith. The characters include: Daniel Webster, a drug-addicted Episcopal priest; his alcoholic wife; his son, a 23-year-old homosexual Republican; his daughter, a 16-year-old drug dealing daughter; a 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop's daughter; his lesbian secretary who is sleeping with his sister-in-law; and a very unconventional white-robed, bearded Jesus who talks to the priest.

The writer for the program is Jack Kenny, a practicing homosexual who describes himself as being "in Catholic recovery," and is interested in Buddhist teachings about reincarnation and isn't sure exactly how he defines God and/or Jesus. "I don't necessarily know that all the myth surrounding him (Jesus) is true," he said.

Aidan Quinn, who plays Rev. Webster, said if the show offends some Catholics, "I don't really care..."

Take Action Now! Time is Short!

What can you do:

1. Print out the AFA pass along sheet and distribute it in your Sunday School class and at your church this Sunday. Ask your pastor to urge members to call their local NBC affiliate asking the station not to air the program.

2. Contact local advertisers on your NBC affiliate and ask them to pull their advertising from the local affiliate if it carries the show. (By Federal Law, NBC cannot force the local affiliate to air the show. The local affiliate has the option not to air the program. Federal Law - 47 C.F.R. 73.658(e))

3. Send an email to ten potential sponsors asking them not to sponsor The Book of Daniel.

4. Forward this information to your family and friends.

Finally, would you consider a small financial gift to help AFA continue this battle? Click here to help.



Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman
American Family Association

P.S. Many of your family and friends aren't aware of NBC's The Book of Daniel. Please forward this to them.

It's Not Gay: This 28-minute video presents a story few have heard, allowing former homosexuals the opportunity to tell their own story in their own words. Along with medical and mental health experts, these individuals express a clear warning that the sanitized version of homosexuality being presented to students is not the whole truth. Now available on DVD!
American Family Filter - Strong, Internet filtering software and porn blocking technology.
Spiritual Heritage Tours - Tours of Washington, D.C. and Mount Vernon with an emphasis on America's Christian heritage, led by AFA president Tim Wildmon and AFR general manager Marvin Sanders.

WOW. Everyone, it will be totally wonderful for us all to start calling our local advertisers and affiliates and let them know that We, The People, Cannot WAIT to Park Ourselves In Front Of The TV To Watch What Promises To Be The Best Program Of The Century, Meaning, Of Course, The Book of Daniel, Which Will Be So Awesome We Will Be Compelled To Buy All Products Advertised During Said Program.

Ready, Steady, GO! (here's my contribution!)

Dear Mr. Chairman,

I don't watch much television -- for a program to be worth my attention, it has got to be pretty special. That is why I am very excited about the promising new show "The Book of Daniel." I would think very highly of your company and its products were you to sponsor a quality program such as "Daniel."

As a recently married woman with a great deal of disposable income as well as considerable influence in my circle of friends and colleagues, I look forward to seeing your innovative and cutting-edge ads on what promises to be my new favorite show.

Thank you for your consideration of my request.