March 31, 2011

Chasing Tale Diaries: Books I Will Never Read

Never judge a book by its cover. That's the truism you hear when it comes to literature--and everything else for that matter. But, for now, let's stick with books.

It may not be right to judge a book by its cover, but is it okay to judge a book by its backstory?

Last year, there was some serious buzz going on about a book called I Am Number Four. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the cover (what was that truism I just mentioned?). I found out the author, Pittacus Lore, was really a pseudonym. For James Frey, the A Million Little Pieces guy, the one who got browbeaten by Oprah for passing his fictionalized book off as a memoir. Yeah, that guy.

Still, I was interested and put the book on my wish list, even mentioning it in my Wish List Wednesday meme. I mean, if the guy was writing straight-up fiction, rather than hoodwinking readers with a B.S. autobiography, I figured it was worth giving a chance. I read A Million Little Pieces, after all, and it wasn't terrible--not great, but not terrible.

But, I haven't read the book yet, nor have I seen the movie based on it, and I probably never will. Why?

I read an article in New York Magazine titled, "James Frey's Fiction Factory," which really irked me. Among the more displeasing realities behind the creation of this book: James Frey didn't even write it, so much as he came up with the story idea and commissioned an aspiring young author to pen the manuscript. That's not such a bad thing on its own, but the young man Frey recruited was coerced into signing a contract that forbade him from revealing himself as having anything to do with the book, and the other stipulations seemed outrageous (you can see a copy of a contract the article's author received).

That sounds fucking shady, man. There's even more disreputable details behind the making of I Am Number Four and how James Frey's cynical, cash-grab enterprise operates. What it all adds up to is the book scratched off my wish list--and I'll be damned if I sit down to watch the movie, either.

So, I ask you: am I unreasonable in dismissing this book entirely without having read it? Heck, I'm basically swearing off anything associated with James Frey, too. Am I wrong, or are you also fed up with Frey?

I'm interested in hearing you think of this book and my opinion on it. Also, are there any books you refuse to read?


  1. James Frey is a tool. I won't even touch one of his books to get to another book.

  2. I had no idea Frey had anything to do with the book. The thing is, I have no problem avoiding books, movies, tv shows, based on a personal distaste for someone involved. I do it all the time. Hell, I refuse to watch so much as an episode of the Jersey Shore.

    So no, I don't see a problem with this. But I may not be the best person to ask. ;-)

  3. I have various opinions on this. The author did not have to sign the contract, but I still find it all very shady. However, I just have so many other books I want to read, it's not really a huge deal if I boycott this or not.

  4. I wouldn't read it either. If I found out an author was a shady, potentially immoral douchebag, I wouldn't read their book either. Not that I think we have to research authors and "make sure." But sometimes they make it obvious.

  5. Aaron - That's why God invented sticks.

    Tony - Ugh. Jersey Shore. I actually watched a couple episodes of that--parts of anyway. Never again.

    Midnyte - True, the young author didn't have to sign the contract, but he was definitely preyed upon, and it's sad to say his situation probably isn't that unique from other wannabe authors.

    Natalie - Amen.

  6. No, that's completely justified. I hate to hear about young authors dicking themselves over. I mean, kid probably got paid well enough, but it's still disheartening, to picture the talent behind a piece of work not being able to so much as say, "yeah, I wrote that."
    I swore off anything by Max Brooks, mainly because zombies bore me, but primarily because I hear the man talk and want to just rip my ears out, eyes as well.

  7. No Max Brooks for you, Sean. Interesting reasoning, too. I have no qualms with the guy, though I don't listen to his interviews much. I did hear one earlier in the year as part of a panel discussion on zombies, along with authors like Scott Kenemore, in which he sounded a bit pedantic, but I would still seek out his stories.