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Only 1,729 James Frey Readers Upset Enough to Demand Refund

With any luck*, a federal court judge closed the book on the controversy surrounding A Million Little Pieces by signing off on a settlement to reimburse 1,729 readers, setting Random House back a whopping $27,348 (plus a little over $1.2 million in legal fees and other expenses, and $180,000 for charity). To put that in perspective, consider this fact from Larry Neumeister‘s AP report: One attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit against Random conceded that, in the seven months after James Frey‘s embellishments were revealed to the public, the book went on to sell nearly 94,000 more copies.

To put it in even more persepctive, you might recall that when Laura Albert was convicted of fraud this summer, a year and a half after Frey’s memoir was debunked, I was able to inform you that A Million Little Pieces continued to sell 2,000 copies a week.

So you’ll understand, perhaps, why I might be a little skeptical when one of the other plaintiff’s attorneys comes out of the courtroom saying he believed “publishers will think twice before labeling their book a memoir.” As it happens, that genre accounts for eight of the sixteen titles on this week’s NY Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list—nine if you’re feeling perverse enough to include If I Did It. Although, in fairness, Eric Clapton, Clarence Thomas, Marcus Luttrell, Alan Greenspan, Valerie Plame Wilson, Tony Dungy, Carolyn Jessop, and Nikki Sixx all seem like sober, reliable narrators and not the sort of people who would “reframe” events to make themselves more attractive or compelling figures in their own life story, so that attorney is probably on to something after all.

*Yes, I know as well as you do the media’s going to start yammering about it again as soon as the novel comes out.

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