There was outrage aplenty, from Oprah Winfrey on through the rest of the book-related media, when James Frey's memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," was found to be substantially fabricated. As part of the fallout, publisher Random House agreed to refund the purchase price to anyone who wanted it.
Well, it turns out that not many did. The Associated Press reports that only about 1,700 buyers wanted their money back, this out of the millions who bought the book. A New York federal judge approved a deal last week between the publisher and a group of buyers who had sued.
This should not come as a surprise, since many people care little whether the events recounted in a memoir are true or false. Even after the fabrications were revealed in January 2006, almost 100,000 copies of "A Million Little Pieces" were sold. This book was not a scholarly work, or a textbook, after all -- it was an entertainment, and people apparently saw it as such.
Here's an example: After the news about Frey come out, a friend called me and said, "Wow, I saw your story about James Frey. You know, I read that book when I realized I went to school with Frey."
I said, "You knew Frey?"
"Well, no, he was a year ahead of me, but we both went to the same college."
"What do you think about the book?" I asked, thinking he would be furious at being deceived.
"Oh, great book!" he said -- "hell of a read!"