May 02, 2006


Bobby Farouk

Sometimes the writer remembers to sand the serial numbers off the cars he steals. Sometimes not. But he is not dishonest. He doesn’t sit in your front room pretending to be a volunteer fund-raiser for the Heart Fund. When he visits he introduces himself as a car thief. He doesn’t conceal his intentions. He follows you into the kitchen and rifles the drawers for the car keys while you stand at the counter pouring grounds into the coffee-maker.

John Shannon

I would like to agree with you but, having hurt people myself in print and, on the other hand, having danced at the edge of poisoning the well of history by altering facts to protect others, I think the ultimate moral stance of a fiction writer has to be a bit more nuanced than a simple free-for-all of writerly irresponsibility. Just one example: it is very difficult to sit through a production of After the Fall, as I recently did, and not feel more than a bit of discomfort at the public laceration of someone who was so well known, so close to the author and so obviously stricken with borderline personality disorder. It's not black and white, discretion vs. truth; but it can be a damned tough question.

Jody  Tresidder

I would also like to agree with you. I believe I was even taught to agree with you in Lit. Crit. Theory. But I cannot.

Sometimes, the journalists and gossip columnist circles (the circles that care about authors' private lives) punch successfully far above their weight. The untransformed "truth" can be truly vile for the victim.

Never personally suffered, I hasten to add. But I generally, squeamishly endorse John Shannon (above).

Lynne W. Scanlon

Where did I read that you should NEVER tell an interesting personal story to Norman Mailer because there was a good chance it would appear in one of his books?

Did the ex-Mr. Carey think the ex-Mrs. Carey would not flip through the pages of her ex-husband's book, looking for the good parts? Come on! Isn't skewering an ex part of the fun of divorce? Oh, sorry, author's license and all that. I forgot. I'm sure it never occurred to the author that his ex-wife would turn out to be "overly sensitive." It's just all a misunderstanding, I'm sure.

Will Pritikin

Recently I had a spar amongst friends about the Frey scandal. For some roguish reason I stuck up for the author as a kind of rebellious prankster, someone who did something cleverly and I thought, mildly, unethical. While my fellow conversationalists could admire his tenacity, in the end I had to submit that what had happened amounted to a kind of base dishonesty and fraud, not necessarily from a literary stance, but from the very wretched perspective of the consumer of novels.

We at least pretend as though we don’t tolerate plagiarism, fraud, or libel in our arts. We do promote allusion, association, improvement, derivative, satire, and other evolutions of nearly every thoughtful kind. Being culturally-minded and empathetic to the arts means we are squeamish to censure any evil-looking thing for fear of accidentally burning up the golden work that looked ugly in its youth. But even so there must be some balance. In an imaginary scenario that is not Carey’s, where certain libelous accusations become true, what should happen? And if the accuser is lying, for motives unknowable, what then? Great art exists for its own sake, and significantly so, well before it starts to tally-up other modes of being. How much biographical material must seem verisimilar, if any amount, before we legally classify a novel as non-fictitious and damaging? Le-art-pour-le-art is ultimately an ideal, a lovely ideal, and it is unfairly that we must force it to compete for preservation within the red-in-tooth-and-nail framework of our society.

I must read Carey’s new novel to make any kind of judgment here--but it nearly doesn’t matter. The Independent paints a scathing picture of Carey, while fighting valiantly to bend Ms. Summers into a merely defensive pose; whatever the truth behind the portraitures. Only time will tell which one withers and which remains true to the day it was painted.

Steven Augustine

Lovers, exes, kids, and milkmen as fiction fodder? Hey: it was, and shall always be, thus. If the book ends up being a classic, the author is forgiven (hire a medium and ask Saul Bellow). If the book vanishes without a trace, that's the other solution.


What great character studies, no matter who they derived from, especially the marvelous Hugh. Came seeking out reviews of it, however, and looking to understand why Olivier and Hugh land in LOS ANGELES but meet up with Boone/Bone and the lady in NEW YORK?
Very strange tilt of geography that never got explained...

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