Nan Talese Talks About Frey

Posted on January 18, 2006

The Observer reports on Nan Talese's repsonse to James Frey's assertions that his editor (Talese) wouldn't publish his book as a novel but demanded that it be sold as a nonfiction memoir. She was flabbergasted, to say the least.
"When the manuscript of A Million Little Pieces was received by us at Doubleday, it was received as nonfiction, as a memoir," said Ms. Talese by phone. "Throughout the whole process of publication, it had always been a memoir, and for the first year and a half it was on sale, it was always a memoir with no disputation. It was never once discussed as fiction by me or anyone in my office."

Ms. Talese�s statement appears to contradict Mr. Frey, who has said that it was his publisher�s decision to foist A Million Little Pieces onto the public as a memoir rather than a novel, as he had originally written it. Just a few days ago, during an unrepentant appearance on Larry King Live, Mr. Frey said: "We initially shopped the book as a novel, and it was turned down by a lot of publishers as a novel or as a nonfiction book. When Nan Talese purchased the book, I�m not sure if they knew what they were going to publish it as. We talked about what to publish it as. And they thought the best thing to do was publish it as a memoir."

Ms. Talese said that she "almost collapsed" when she heard Mr. Frey make that statement. (Mr. Frey, as well as his editor, Sean McDonald, who is now at Riverhead, and his agent, Kassie Evashevski, didn�t respond to calls from The Observer.) Critics and journalists have since repeated Mr. Frey�s claim, citing it as evidence that the publishing industry and its craven marketing decisions are to blame for the fact that elements of Mr. Frey�s book are, in fact, not true.

*****

If Mr. Frey came to Ms. Talese today with the same manuscript, she said she�d publish it the same way, most likely with a disclaimer in the front. (In any case, she said that the book would never have worked as a novel, in part because the author himself is the only real character in it.) She added that [I]f Mr. Frey had confessed prior to publication to the fabrications revealed by the Smoking Gun last week, she would have excised them from the book. A transgression had been committed, Ms. Talese acknowledged, but the person responsible was Mr. Frey. "I don�t think it is ever a good idea to purposely distort the truth," she said.
Considering Ms. Talese's excellent reputation in the publishing industry and the fact that Mr. Frey admits in his own book that he is an inveterate liar, we believe Ms. Talese. It's absurd to blame her for the fact that Frey conned her, just like he conned everyone else.

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