By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“For most of the 20th century,” Mr. Frey has opined, “when people like me grew up wanting to be writers, people like Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Norman Mailer — none of these people got into writing and didn’t take it fucking seriously. They got into it saying, ‘I’m going to write books that change people’s lives. I’m going to write the best book of my generation. I’m going to be remembered as someone who changed the way people think and write and live. I don’t have a problem saying I’m the fucking best.’?”
Well, okay then. At the outset of Frey’s Checkers moment on Larry King the day after Smoking Gun opened fire, Mr. King lobbed questions at his guest with the ferocity of a thalidomide discus thrower. King mentioned that all of the above actually wrote fiction. But Frey was ready for him.
“They didn’t have memoirs then,” he said. Which is perfect. What better response than to impose a fictional history — or lack thereof — insisting his genre of choice is no more than a newborn. Again, I can only say hats off. It’s not easy sitting with your feet in the fire on national TV, and the “memoirs-were-just-invented” defense was a gutsy way to play it. When I have to think on my feet, I tend to start babbling in Yiddish and blame Himmler.
Of course, whatever St. Augustine thought he was doing, all those centuries ago, when he wrote down his life to show his progress from hopeless sinner to chatty saint — it really is of no never-mind. Neither, for that matter, are the autobiographical efforts of Benvenuto Cellini, Joan of Arc, C.G. Jung, Gypsy Rose Lee, Malcolm X, Willie Sutton or any other pre–Jimmy F. autobios.
But maybe I’m selling the whole deal short. My gut feeling is that what Frey, who’s clearly a talented, high-IQ kind of guy, most likely means is that the Post-Truth Memoir is in its infancy. Truth in an era when it’s no longer a function of memory or experience, but simply an assertion.
At the end of the proverbial day, my respect for Monsieur Frey and Madame Leroy has skyrocketed. Because this isn’t about a “hoax.” The very word is redundant. We’re living in End-Time on Planet Bush: all hoax all the time.
So okay, maybe I didn’t always find the my-pain-is-bigger-than-your-pain depictions in Million Little convincing. I probably would have if I were 16. Plus — who’s kidding whom? While it’s true, as Oprah declared in defense of her bitch, that jail marked a fraction of the time devoted to actual rehab action, it’s jail that lends the whole thing cred. You can jive the bad-boy-adoring sorority girls, but dope fiends know. Jail is the alky and addict’s Vietnam. Right up there with Hep C, an ex-spouse or two, and a Buick LeSabre last parked somewhere in Reseda that’s still missing. The technical term for what’s missing here is consequences. But never mind. James — that vicious maniac! — tells us he didn’t just do his time; he smacked a cop on the way in. I mean James-the-character, not James-the-guy-at-the-computer.
Indeed. When you check out the mug shot of his Ohio booking, you’d think you were looking at the head counselor at Camp Chugabrew. Which was my initial inkling that, falsehoods aside, the guy might really be a heavy. I’ve met a couple of killers in my life, and both were unassuming gentlemen. That’s what impressed me most. Here, clearly, was an early demonstration of the superhuman self-control the two-fisted son of an executive was already on his way to mastering. The arresting officer even remembers young James as “well-mannered.” He fooled everybody. Now that is impressive.
Your criminal types know how to con the heat. But in the end, and I know I’m running the risk of projecting my own neuroses onto the subject, there is one other machismo-diminishing characteristic on the table. One I happen to share with our future Poet Laureate — a persistent lisp.
There, I said it. Of course, cred-craving white boys aren’t the only ones plagued by sibilance — his lisp may well explain why Mike Tyson lost his shit and got into ear-biting. I’m sure as hell not going to ask him. We’re talking about common ground here. Your lispers have to climb twice as high up the Bad Boy ladder. Otherwise we’d get our collective clocks cleaned. (Just ask Al Gore. Beard or no beard, however buffed up his politics, the poor man has no shot at being president so long as his speech impediment makes him sound like a priss. Sad but true.)
But what the hell. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that, way back when, yours truly also plopped on Oprah to pimp his own narco-hayride of a memoir. Sadly, this was the Pleistocene Era, when the Book Club was still a twinkle in the hostess’ eye. Sadder still, I arrived in the Harpo Studios only to discover that it was a theme show: “When Smart People Do Dumb Things.” It still burns a little.
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