Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Frey Sublimation

Thought I was finished commenting on James Frey, but yesterday over lunch with my friend Alvin Hall and his literary agent Robert Allen, Allen made an interesting observation. He and Alvin had (separately) watched Oprah's recantation and take-down of Frey, which Allen said was so harsh and vindictive that it left him feeling sorry for the guy for the first time. It also prompted him to wonder why we (meaning the media and the commentariat) have been so fixated on this admittedly minor scandal.

His answer, which is obvious as soon as you think about it, is that as a nation we are hurt and angry about having been lied to and manipulated in regard to big, important things that we feel helpless to do anything about. So we are finding relief in ganging up on a little squirt who lied to us and manipulated us over small, unimportant things as a kind of subliminal act of cultural revenge on dishonesty.

The longer I live the more I believe that America is fundamentally a dysfunctional family, acting out its neuroses through symbolic (and ultimately ineffectual) gestures.

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