Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times, January 17:
Mr. Frey's embellishments of the truth, his cavalier assertion that the "writer of a memoir is retailing a subjective story," his casual attitude about how people remember the past - all stand in shocking contrast to the apprehension of memory as a sacred act that is embodied in Oprah Winfrey's new selection for her book club, announced yesterday: "Night," Elie Wiesel's devastating 1960 account of his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
New York Times, January 19:
The publisher and the translator of a new English-language edition of "Night," Elie Wiesel's harrowing account of life in the Nazi death camps, said yesterday that the new edition corrects several small factual errors in the previous translation, including a reference to the author's age when he entered the camps.
Oprah Winfrey's choice of "Night" as the next selection for her television book club on Monday immediately sent the book to the top of national best-seller lists.
But it also revived questions about "Night," one of the first autobiographical accounts of the death camps and a book that changed modern American understanding of the Holocaust. At times over the last 45 years it has been classified as a novel on some high-school reading lists, in some libraries and in bookstores.
Some scholars who have studied Holocaust memoirs have also raised questions about how much of the book can be verified.
Mr. Wiesel and his literary agent, Georges Borchardt, said in interviews this week that the book was factual and that they had never portrayed it as a novel. They said the differences in the new edition are not significant enough to justify the kind of questions raised about Ms. Winfrey's last book club selection, the memoir "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey
Just a suggestion: "Nonfiction narrative" is inherently a genre in which facts are going to be shaded and embellished in the name of story. In demanding that our "nonfiction" also be "narrative," let's not pretend that it is as well providing us with "the truth." Frey's embellishments may or may not have been warranted, but if we stopped fetishizing "story" as embodying some kind of transcendent value, he may not have resorted to them in the first place.