Column: Lots of sound, fury and horror about lies and liars

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

Love Cruikshank, Love Notes

Lots of sound and fury about lying and liars on television this past week. Real horror expressed over a young writer’s autobiographical book in which he writes of his triumphant struggle against illegal drugs.

James Frey, that’s his name. James Frey, as I understand it embellished the story a bit. And unfortunately our heroine, Oprah, who has become something of a book club guru had recommended the book to her fans.

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I’m not sure of the name of the book. Something like “A Million Little Pieces,” I think. If that’s not correct, please don’t hold a post-mortem on me and ooh and ah about what a graceless liar I am.

The way the group attacked poor Frey you’d think that to draw and quarter him would be too lenient. The most violent of his critics was Oprah. I swear her inquisition of him reminded me so much of the principal of old Second Avenue Grade School that I had a nervous feeling she might at any moment leap to her feet and wander down the aisles swinging her rubber tube.

Mind I’m not defending the lie. Tell enough of them and you’ll never be believed again. This book, though, is said to be a bestseller and there are those who claim that it has helped them in their own struggle against addiction.

Not good enough for Frey’s self-appointed jury. A writer, a liar, not to be tolerated. I don’t recollect that they said anything about politicians who are a bit careless with the truth. Strange. Whether or not James Frey lied in his book, it didn’t lead to the deaths of 25,000 (or is it 30,000 by now) young Americans.

Personally I’m not in favor &045; unless it’s in regard to murder, rape, molestation, or something of the kind &045; of putting people on the defensive, or, for that matter, being put on the defensive myself.

As I’ve said in this column before I’ve been saved from heart burning and quivering collapse by a scene in a movie based on a Wodehouse novel. The domineering aunt says to the butler:

“I don’t like you. I never have liked you. I never will like you.”

The butler, with the utmost dignity replies, “That, Madam, leaves me in a state of indifference bordering on the supernatural.”

Of course, Frey may not be familiar with Wodehouse, but he could have stood up and quietly and with dignity left. If dignity didn’t matter he could have applied thumb to nose and wiggled his fingers a bit in a quiet way. I felt his critics had it coming.

They kept muttering in a self-righteous sort of way that a fact is the truth and if you stuck to the facts you’d be telling the truth.

Ha! They’d obviously never heard one of my favorite folk stories. You probably know it. It dates back to the days of the whaling vessels. It was a small ship governed by few officers, namely a captain and a first mate.

They got along pretty well, which speaks well for the patience of the first mate, because the captain was one of those holier than anyone else and stubborn as they come.

They took turns making recordings in the log book. One day the captain recorded that the first mate had been drunk that day.

Not at all, protested the first mate. It had been a damp winterish day, he feared he might come down with a cold so had taken a very small drink simply for the sake of his health.

Nonsense, said the captain. The bottle was almost empty, a fact was a fact, he himself was an honest man and proud of it. The fact was registered in the log book, “First mate drunk today.” Nothing like telling the truth.

Well, the first mate had no choice but to accept the captain’s decision. And, after all, the first mate had respect for truth, too. So when it was his turn to put his report in the log he wrote in a firm clear hand the exact truth. “Captain sober today.”

Don’t forget that today is Ground Hog Day. You may want to bring flowers.

(Albert Lea resident Love Cruikshank’s columns run on Thursdays.)