Throwing words away one syllable at a time.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Joining in the Frey.

I don't watch TV; I don't even have cable.
Normally, I'm proud of this. I think it keeps my mind from going completely to Playdoh. But I have these moments when I miss it. After seeing a segment of Oprah tearing into James Frey on, I'm dying here from trying to find the transcripts of that episode. If I'd seen it, I could join in the fray -- and not of Frey but of his publisher, Nan Talese.

I've read the op-ed pieces from the NYT and the Washington Post and the LA Times ... and am I the only person in America who notices and see's the irony in the fact that Nan Talese is married to Gay Talese? Maybe I am just the only person gracesless enough to bring it up and say, "Ms. Talese, you knew better." Not she *should* have known, but she knew. There's just no way she didn't know better.

Maybe I'm this graceless because I'm not married. I'll allow that point straight-up. But I've had relationships. I couldn't carry a note if it came with it's own designer bag but my ex-boyfriend was a musician in Atlanta. I hung out at enough gigs to pick up a few thing about the his job. When you share a life with someone, you learn the ropes of your partner's occupation. Doesn't matter what it is. Office politics come up at the dinner table. Some details just ooze into you like osmosis when you share a bed with someone. When that someone does something as personal and creative as writing, you dig in and see even more of the inner-workings of the profession.

Tom Wolf points to Talese and says (figuratively), "It was his fault, he did it first" when it comes to narrative nonfiction. Gay Talese is adamant about his facts and his accuracy. He even fessed up to affairs and his penchant for massage parlor hand jobs at the end of "Thy Neighbor's Wife" in the spirit of full and truthful disclosure. (You would think from that book alone, Nan would have a quite thorough understanding of what truth in nonfiction.)

I keep seeing journlists note that Talese is famous for her imprint. Why is that imprint famous, do you think? One writer noted her represented authors include George Plimpton. Yes, Gay wrote a story on him in the '60's for Esquire. One that Plimpton did not initially agree with even though Gay stood by it writing him lengthy letters. You think that's not the kind of thing you take home with you and chat about over meatloaf with the wife? Come on, she may not have a practice of fact-checking but she KNOWS the ethics and meaning in labeling nonfiction as nonfiction.

A memior just isn't that far a leap from literary journalism. Instead of someone else writing it about you, you write it yourself. Seems pretty simple to me. Nan Talese knows better.


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