Friday, January 27, 2006
Maybe Gladiator said it best when he said "are you not entertained?" Unless you've been living under a rock, you must by now be familiar with the fracas surrounding the book A Million Little Pieces put forth as an autobiography on Oprah Winfrey's show. Viewers were urged to run out and buy this book, which is a guarantee a book will be a best seller. This was a tale of woe about a man's struggle with addiction, but he couldn't find a publisher for the work as a work of fiction, so he changed minor details and shopped it to publishers as a true story. The truth was ferreted out by the good folks over at the smoking gun and now Oprah et al are crying in their cosmopolitans because they were duped into an extreme degree of agitation and sympathy by this literary hoax.
Actually, I think it is good this happened surrounding something that is as benign as a novel or a book read for pleasure or diversion. People, most particularly women, I'm ashamed to say, need to give more thought to the emotional basis on which they view life, politics and the world around them. I don't say to deny one's feelings or not to consider them in major decisions, but the reality is when your choices are based solely on emotion, you will be subject to manipulation and adrift without the rudder of pragmatic good sense.
So, just because it isn't true - was the book not entertaining? Did these many thousands of readers not get off on the vicarious danger of the hard-edged life as described in the pages? I contend they enjoyed the shit out of it, because it illustrated for them a cautionary tale of someone who is more of a fuck-up than most of them. They can't feel smug and superior and in turn grateful for their drab little lives if this story of wallowing in the gutter is not true. They therefore feel robbed. What they need to consider, then, is how much more skepticism with which to examine what they read.
Why do we read novels and books about things often too preposterous to be true? We crave diversion, we long for amusement, and literature transports us through mental exercises that keep our sense of reality and consciousness elastic and youthful. Primordial men painted their caves as a story telling device, and the media have become increasingly sophisticated as time progresses. This is just one more step in the evolution of the ways people jump through hoops to amuse themselves. I don't hold the author blameless in perpetuating this hoax, but I also think there was some pleasure afforded the readers in the exchange, so it wasn't completely one-sided.
I contend that stringing this reading experience out to include a post-coital ---er, post-reading period of righteous indignation-fueled harangue has given these folks a very good and long-lasting high - the ultimate happy-ending with a side of drama queen a la mode. Entertaining, indeed!