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This Probably Shouldn’t Bother Me, But…

May 28, 2014
Oddly enough, this probably should bother me, but it doesn't. (image via image)

Oddly enough, this probably should bother me, but it doesn’t. (image via image)

Sometimes I’m better off not knowing things. Yesterday I didn’t know that James Frey was making a comeback. Today, I know. And it ticks me off. There are a bunch of reasons that James Frey’s comeback rubs me the wrong way, and this puts me in an odd position because I usually like comebacks.

James Frey was vilified by readers for lying (or conducting extreme exaggerating) in his memoir A Million Little Pieces. I didn’t see the big deal about that at the time. I figured everybody lied in their memoirs anyway. I guess Oprah Winfrey didn’t know that people lie in their memoirs because she vilified him on her show. I wonder if Oprah has ever lied in her memoirs or her magazine or her television show(s). I’m not asking for evidence. I don’t care that much. I just wonder, and then I move on.

I don’t have a problem with an author lying in his memoir. It’s tough to get published. If you need to lie in your book to get published, then lie, and then stand by your act of lying. If I had to do everything over again, I would have started this blog by pretending to be a hot chick with lots of cleavage. Hot chicks with cleavage have some disadvantages in life, but they get attention, way more attention than boring guys who can’t reveal much information about themselves. So when I started this blog, I should have been a hot chick, and I should have written books while pretending to be a hot chick. But if I ever wrote a successful book while pretending to be a hot chick, I’d know not to go on Oprah. That would be stupid.

Anyway, I’m a little bothered about James Frey making a comeback, but it’s not just because he’s James Frey.

1.  He’s writing YA fiction.

James Frey’s book (memoir or fiction, I don’t care) A Million Little Pieces dealt with a bunch of stuff that would be deemed inappropriate for YA readers. It would probably be banned from a lot of school libraries. Now James Frey is writing YA fiction. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have the right to do it. I just wonder what compels an author to go from adult-themed stuff like A Million Little Pieces to YA fiction. If you’re making the transition from adult-themed, fake memoir to YA fiction, at least give it 20 years.

2.  It’s a 12 book series.

If there’s anything YA fiction doesn’t need, it’s another series. Most YA has become unreadable in the last five years because authors are churning out books faster than editors can (or want to) revise them. This new series by James Frey is three novels and nine digital stories/books/novellas. Plus, there are set to be movies, Youtube videos, and the usual social media stuff.

If adults want to read a series, that’s their business, but these Endgame books are geared toward kids who (for the most part) will be spending their parents’ money. A 12 book series for kids is obnoxious (even if most of the stories are digital). As an adult, I will not read a 12 book series anymore. I’ll rarely even read trilogies anymore. Luckily, neither of my daughters will have any interest in this James Frey endeavor, but I’m not out of the woods.  We have other cash cow issues, like American Girl and Monster High.  I’m not sure which is worse, but I’m sure (and I hope) that no Monster High authors have written anything like A Million Little Pieces.

3.  It has the word “Game” in the title.

“Game” has become overused in book/series titles. We have Game of Thrones, Ender’s Game, Hunger Games, and now James Frey presents us with… Endgame. The cynical part of me has a bunch of snide comments about Endgame and its apparent lack of originality, but people don’t like my snide side, so I’ll keep those comments to myself. I’m just … (shaking my head)… disappointed.

To make things worse, readers supposedly can win a prize if they solve a bunch of puzzles. The first one is hidden in the cover of the first book The Calling. The cover was just released a few days ago, and that’s how I accidentally found out about it. There is a clue hidden in the cover, but I haven’t looked at the cover too closely. I was too busy reading about this whole Endgame stuff and getting (unnecessarily) bothered.

I don’t think I’m going to win the prize.

The idea of an interactive 12 (or 3 + 9) book series with the word “Game” in the title put together by a guy who wrote an adult-themed, fake memoir and said it was true… this whole project bothers me in a lot of ways, and I was better off not knowing about it.


This  Endgame series probably shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I wish I didn’t know about it. There’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t stop it. I’m not going to start an online petition or a boycott because I’m not that kind of guy. I’ll just try to ignore it. If my daughters ever hear about it, they’ll call it stupid. In that regard, I’m lucky. Maybe I’m part of the problem by writing about it, but I don’t think so. I’m not exactly providing free publicity, since people who read Dysfunctional Literacy probably want nothing to do with Endgame.

Maybe I’m wrong. Are you at all interested in Endgame? Do you like interactive fiction? Do you like 12 book series? If you like 12 book series, do you trust an idea to become a 12 book series before one book from the series has even been published? Should a guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces write YA fiction? Has most YA fiction become completely unreadable lately? Am I wrong to be bothered by this, even a little bit? Do you have something that shouldn’t bother you but does?  I could probably come up with a million little questions, but this paragraph is getting too long.

  1. I think you’re bothered. You put time and thought into writing this. That’s not ti include the editing and maybe you stopped at some point and had to resume writing this post. You even searched the web to find a picture to support not being bothered. It’s okay though, I spend similar time doing things or talking about things I’m over and unaffected by. It bothers me that I do that but I don’t know if I’ll ever stop,

  2. I’m bothered too. By all the points you made (12 books? really?!!) and by something else. I’ve tried not to let it bother me, but well, it does. Frey started the book packaging company Full Fathom Five. Their basic goal is to write the next TWILIGHT (as in cash cow). While I know publishing is an industry and industry by definition must make money, the purist in me balks at the idea that books are written only with their dollar value in mind. I’m not naive. I know how this thing works, but I have more respect for an author who eats Ramen noodles to survive, pouring everything into a novel: heart, soul, the essence of their being. And then gets published, than a cheap book written to make a buck. It’s like the book equivalent of junk food. Entertaining for the 30 seconds you’re consuming it, but clogging your arteries and creating heart burn for the next hour.

    • I had a couple paragraphs written about Full Fathom Five and I Am Number Four, but they were too negative, so I cut them out. Those paragraphs made me seem even more bothered than I really was or am, but the FFF philosophy (which you wrote about) rubs me the wrong way too.

  3. I’m in Australia and completely missed the whole Oprah fiasco, yet everything this author does bothers me. His motives seem impure. The MA student-abusing project sounded particularly bad. Also, I agree with everything you said about YA and series. Add to that the current trend of sectioning film adaptations into parts (Deathly Hollows part one, etc.) and you’ve got my main concerns with youth popular culture today.

  4. J. Christina Henry permalink

    I understand this guys frustration. I am a writer with ambitions of being published. I see authors or various genres get away with lame stories and great book deal b/c they are already published and part of the Industry. As far as James Fray becoming a YA author, for a while now becoming a YA author is like the new black. He is not the only adult author, who have changed genres. Books like the Hunger Games and Divergent with movies deals are whipping machines for things like this. Prepared to be underwhelmed.

  5. I’m in the middle of writing a 92 book series for infants, or I’s, as I like to designate them for marketing purposes. It is about a brave young baby and his quest for the perfect diaper. Legends of the playpen talk of a diaper that is always dry, comfortable, and has adorable fishies on it. This market is mine!

    • 92 seems like a lot of books for infants. Are you writing all 92 books yourself, or do you have some co-authors to help you? If you have co-authors, how large are you going to allow the letters of their names to be on your book covers? I hope you have the decency to write at least the first book completely by yourself.

      • Hahahaha. I have a sweatshop full of unemployed, just graduated, English majors, who will write all the books and are doing so happily for the experience.

  6. You are part of the problem. Before you wrote this i was blissfully unaware of James Frey. Now I’m curious. At the very least his website will not get one more hit because you wrote about him. On the other hand, that puzzle-in-the-cover gimmick is one regularly employed by Dan Brown. The mere fact that Frey is using a Dan Brown gimmick means I’m probably not going to like him either.

  7. It is tough to get published. This is true in any genre – fiction, memoir, biography, science, or cooking. It is not okay for writers to lie in their memoir and then perpetuate their lie while people challenge them on it, and to reiterate their lie as true when everyone knows it isn’t. That undercuts the informal agreement that readers and writers (and publishers) have with each other when they promote books as fiction or non-fiction. Writers shouldn’t waste people’s time with false non-fiction, then continue to lie about their non-fiction being true when it isn’t. Painting oneself in a positive light might be expected in memoir, but the genre still falls under the umbrella of non-fiction. Outright lies and fictional stories invented to get published and generate book sales should not be thought of as okay simply because it’s hard to get published. It’s hard to be successful in any field, and being talented will always get you much farther than being a liar. If writers wants to write memoir, they ought to have a true and interesting story to tell. If it’s not true, that’s fine. But it’s called fiction.

  8. “Hot chicks with cleavage have some disadvantages in life, but they get attention, way more attention than boring guys who can’t reveal much information about themselves.”

    They get attention, but sexual attention. The attention you would get wouldn’t focus on your blog, but on your cleavage.

    • True. I’ve had a lot of bad ideas, and pretending to be a hot chick with cleavage is probably among the worst of them. I’m glad I didn’t try it.

  9. I think anyone setting out to write a 12-book series is annoying, so I understand. Especially if you have to read them in order to understand what’s going on.

  10. Haha, I don’t know what is the “comeback” in this case if he has written 2 memoirs, 2 fictional books, 3 YA novels with different name…Many authors switch genres, it’s not new thing and Frey isn’t the first one to do it. And after all he did start writing for YA with secret identity: Pittacus Lore

    • Ugh! I didn’t even know he was Pittacus Lore until a couple days ago, so to me, that made the comeback (from my point of view, it was a comeback because I thought James Frey had been out of the public eye for a while) even worse. I couldn’t even write about Pittacus Lore because it made my whole post too negative. I don’t want to come across as too negative. A little negative is okay, but not too negative.

  11. Couldn’t agree more. I’d never read anything that hack has written

  12. From what I understand, and I could be wrong, because the media does lie, on occasion, is that Frey’s memoir was originally intended to be a fiction book, as he presented it to his publisher. Publisher, it seems, pushed the memoir status in order to, well, you guessed it, make more money. Are we, as readers, so hungry for horrifying memoirs that we can be tricked by a good book, then call it bad? I feel a little sorry for Frey. He got caught up in a marketing decision only to write YA and get caught up in another marketing decision.

    • I’ve heard something like that, and I think James Frey said that Oprah misled him about what kind of questions she was going to ask him on her show, but hardly anyone believes him because he lied in his memoir, but if it wasn’t meant to be a memoir, then he wasn’t really lying, and people would still think he was a liar.

      That’s why it’s easier for me to be bothered with his YA fiction.

  13. I am not interested in anything with “game.” Not a book, not a man, not even Monopoly.

    • I almost agreed with you, but I have to make an exception for football. If there’s a football game on, I’ll watch. But that’s it. Other than that, no more game or games.

  14. Tina Bausinger permalink

    12 books? I had no idea.

  15. milansturgis permalink

    Ironic that his series is entitled “End Game”…if only it truly was….

  16. This is the problem with books AND movies. Every good idea has to be driven into the ground. Look at the Marvel “Universe.” They had one good movie and now they have to create an entire “Universe” of movies. A trilogy isn’t even good enough anymore. And the worst part is that the idea doesn’t even have to be good anymore to be driven into the ground. Twelve books?! Let’s see if #1 is good enough to even justify #2!

  17. Who and why would he be given this opportunity when so many of us would leap at the chance to write one book? (She said, complaining that she is not a published author YET)
    I can write YA, apparently everyone can who has read Twilight or Secret of the Traveling Pants.

    When I was a YA, I devoured Judy Blume! When she ventured to write “Forever”, I felt as though I had made the transition to adulthood as well. Ah, and then came “Wifey”…. Nobody is perfect.

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