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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reading Last Night: Dim Unshiny Evening

posted by on May 20 at 10:44 AM

Against my advice, Tori Centanni, the intrepid—and unpaid—Book Intern went to last night’s James Frey reading at Town Hall. Here’s what she had to say on the matter:

The turnout was sad. At 7:30 I counted 28 people, and though a few more trickled in, there were never more than 40 people in the room. This was sort of pathetic.

Frey, trying to cement his image as a rebel and a rule breaker, wore a baseball cap inside and refused to stand during his reading. He did not bring any materials and borrowed a copy of his book from a cute blonde in the front row to read from.

The whole thing was pretty subdued and uneventful. [Opening act] Josh Kilmer-Purcell read the first chapter of his novel [Candy Everybody Wants]. People laughed at the appropriate places. Frey then read a chapter from Bright Shiny Morning about a gun store and a rape victim. Then they asked for questions.

At first, people asked about Frey’s love of Los Angeles. Someone asked how he went about his research. Frey said he read a few L.A. history books and used the internet. When he couldn’t find information, he said “as I’m famous for doing, I just made it up.” He paused for laughter. “It’s a fiction book,” he added.

He talked about how The Los Angeles Times “savaged the book” and how he thought that “was awesome.” But the New York Times and Times Magazine loved it, which surprised him. There were more questions about Los Angeles. Frey really “wanted to do [it] justice.”

Finally some guy in a red shirt grew a pair and asked about The Controversy. The question was “How did you handle the controversy, how did it change your life, and are you still friends with Oprah?”

“I was never really friends with Oprah,” Frey replied. One of the things they told him the first time he was on her show was “don’t expect to be friends with her,” as though a lot of people walk onto her set and think they’re buddies.

As for the controversy regarding how true his “memoir” was, Frey said he just concentrated on his friends and family and tried to ignore the press. He admitted the debacle was “unbelievably unpleasant” but insisted he never meant for A Million Little Pieces to be taken as pure fact. “I could give a fuck about journalistic integrity,” he said, “I wanted to create literature.”

Someone asked if he thought it was unfair, since most memoirs are “fictionalized to some degree.”

Frey sort of dismissed the question by repeating it didn’t matter. “What matters to me is that people still read it… People come up to me and tell me [it] affected them…The word on the side of the book is completely, utterly meaningless to me.”

And then about a dozen people got in line to get their books signed. The whole thing only lasted an hour.

In conclusion, Tori Centanni is great and the James Frey reading was not. Less than 40 people at a Town Hall event—the upstairs, I think, seats 850 people and the downstairs seats anywhere from two to five hundred, depending on the configuration—translates to a waste of time for everyone involved.

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Pretty bad.

We had twice that at the Sierra Club panel on Green Economics at REI.

But tonight is Arianna Huffington at Town Hall - that should get people in the door!

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 20, 2008 10:57 AM

I worked at TH the last time Frey came to promote My Friend Leonard. We called it the most attractive audience ever to grace the hall. Groupies, starfuckers, Hollywouldabeens, bottle blondes, and phony drug addicts. One guy actually asked Frey, "the bottle or the pipe?" Frey demurred, then talked about struggling with all the movie deals he was being offered. He was a snob, but he totally played the hipsters, so it was sort of a draw. Then I got AMLP out of the library and thought it sucked.

Posted by john | May 20, 2008 11:05 AM

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