The Hollywood Reporter has a pretty interesting story that says Dreamworks has already signed up for some more rip-roaring, post-Transformers Bay-os. It also involves one of the literary world’s most controversial figures — none other than James Frey, the fallen memoirist who admitted to fabricating the bejesus out of “A Million Little Pieces,” his 2005 account of drug addiction and rehabilitation.
The project is apparently an adaptation of “I Am Number Four,” an as-yet-unpublished novel about a group of high schoolers adjusting to Earth after an enemy species has destroyed the planet. The fourth member of the group then finds out the enemies are after him. So… Frey wrote the novel with another author whose name is being kept secret for some reason, and they both are planning the book to be the start of a six-volume series. Pretty ambitious shit.
I’ve been a Frey apologist since Day One. I got a copy of “Pieces” when I was working for the Diversions desk back at my old college newspaper in 2005. It just showed up, and it had a cool cover, so I snagged it. I didn’t read it until I moved to Beaufort, S.C., in 2006, shortly before Oprah Winfrey blew her top off over the whole thing.
Regardless of the truth, the characters in “Pieces” always seemed authentic to me, and the story held me, fiction or not. Even if, at the end of the day, Frey is a liar, he is a damn good one. And that’s all good writers tend to be — people who lie to tell the truth. (Now, if he was working for a newspaper… or a magazine… or a think tank… I wouldn’t be as forgiving. In fact, I’d shove a Bic through his thorax, but Frey is a book writer, and his book remains useful. Because the lies are based in something — emotional honesty at the very least.)
Nonetheless, Frey did put some people in a tough spot, including one author with whom I am very loosely acquainted: Pat Conroy of South Carolina. Conroy is like the patron saint of the Lowcountry. His books are full of poetic prose and honorable men (usually people who curiously resemble himself) and all sorts of shit like that, and I was a little tickled when I perused the blurbs on the “Pieces” book jacket one evening while I was sitting on my old porch between two Palmetto trees along Scott Street in Beaufort and saw one from Conroy. He said some really nice shit about Frey. “The ‘War and Peace’ of addiction,” I think he called it.
I interviewed him for The Beaufort Gazette, my former employer, which has unceremoniously erased most of the online evidence that I worked there. (Somebody thought it was a good idea to delete most of the online archives because what good is institutional memory at a fucking newspaper, right?) So, I can’t show you the story. It was interesting though. Conroy basically called Frey a prick and shrugged off the fabulist’s transgressions.
“Kid lied to me,” he said. “I’ll never blurb another thing he writes again.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s pretty close.)
Frey even wrote a sequel (“My Friend Leonard”) that no one really talked about and I assume everyone believes was also similarly fabricated. Then he wrote a novel about California, “Bright Shiny Morning,” which was received quite nicely, surprisingly.
Now, it seems, he’s got a film franchise, which, also surprisingly, isn’t quite new for him either. In fact, Frey had one foot in the film industry before he stepped into the literary side. But if all this goes right for Frey, and the movies and the books are good, it could be his first step toward erasing his past, which would be cool. It’s also an opportunity for Michael Bay to silence his many critics. He’s not, you know… Bergman or anything, but the man can entertain the shit out of people.