I see that since J.K. Rowling is mostly off page one, at least for the moment, we’re back to talking about Oprah Winfrey. Nan Talese, the Doubleday editor who published James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” the memoir that turned out to be greatly fictionalized, is now slamming Winfrey for bringing Talese and her author on her show in January 2006 for an hour in the stocks.
As reported today in the Dallas Morning News, Talese on Saturday ripped Winfrey at a Texas writing conference for “fiercely bad manners.” She said, “I’m unapologetic of the whole thing. The only person who should be apologetic is Oprah Winfrey.” Calling the behavior of the doyenne of daytime TV “mean and self-serving,” she said, “You don’t stone someone in public, which is just what she did.” Talese also said, according to the News story, that she was pretty much enticed onto the show under a ruse that the topic would be “Truth in America,” rather than what it turned out to be: the public whuppin' of Frey and his publisher.
It is a bit odd that Talese would remain basically mum on this subject for a year and a half, and would now unload on Winfrey with both barrels. But it seems she had been fuming over a prevalent assumption that she was repentant for publishing the book.
I have to say, though I’m not a personal friend of the editor, that I thought the show was a bit of phony moralistic indignation. Frey’s biggest sin was clearly not embellishing or inventing details in his book about his drug-addicted past – it was making a fool out of America’s TV Sweetheart. In choosing the book for her book club, she had swallowed his yarns whole – you could almost hear her say, as she flipped the pages, “Really? You did what? Wow!" -- and apparently never wondered, “hmm…is this possible? Root canals without Novocain?”, etc.
Winfrey seemed well pleased with herself when the pillory session was over, like the old-time schoolmistress who knows she has done justice after administering 10 knuckle-whacks with a ruler to the errant student. One did not hear her say, "James and Nan, this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you."