Seriously. I was at the Apple store yesterday, waiting for my Genius, when a cute boy sat down next to me. I was giving him the subtle eyeball-scan when I noticed a tattoo on his inner wrist. Owie, on the most sensitive skin. It was words. I looked closer. It said "Hold On." As in, the refrain James Frey repeated throughout "A Million Little Pieces." I knew guys had had this tattooed on themselves b/c I saw one on Oprah. But this was the first actual person with that tat that I had seen.
So: this dude read the book when he thought it was a memoir, and was so inspired by Frey's tale of kicking addiction that he branded himself with the words Frey howled out of the very depth of his despair.
Never mind that it's not so bright in the first place to get a phrase tattooed on yourself, but I just really wondered how this guy felt now that Frey's been roundly disgraced. Did he tell himself, "Well -- the story still inspired me, even if it turned out to be fiction?" Does he wish he had the cash for some laser treatments? If he saw James Frey walking down Broadway, would he run up and punch him smack on the right temple till he fell down bleeding for real this time?
And how does Frey feel about all this? The first time he saw a "hold on" tattoo, did his heart plummet into his stomach? Did he feel guilty, or did he think, "oh man. I am the biggest rock star. Nobody's ever going to bust me, either."
Side note: I have to say I feel awful for Frey in all of this. He was just trying to illustrate for his readers just how hard it was for him to kick drugs. If you say "I had to kick coke, and it was so hard I thought I would die," people go, "Well, I'm not a drug addict, so I guess it was hard for you but I can't empathize." But if you say "I had to quit coke, and it felt as painful as a root canal without painkillers, as heartbreaking as having a girl you love hang herself, as wonderful as having a mobster who looks like Gene Hackman decide to be your extra father," people go, "Wow, that is really painful, heartbreaking, and wonderful! I get you, writer-man!" Given that, maybe the guy is still OK with his tat.
Or maybe he has no frickin idea Frey has been debunked at all. A month ago I was in a bookstore and A Million Little Pieces was in the "staff picks" section with a rhapsodic description, including the terms "brave" and "memoir." Lacking in self-filtering skills as I am, I ripped the description off the shelf, brought it to the front clerk, and said "You have to not look this stupid. You can't recommend debunked memoirs without at least acknowledging the huge controversy that surrounded them." The front clerk, who bore a striking resemblance to Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, put his hands up and said, "Every memoir has some untruth." I think I sputtered something about TheSmokingGun.com and stalked out, in flabbergastment. There are people in total denial about the nature of memoir and the facts of this particular case. Maybe this guy's tattoo was fresher than I thought because he just didn't give a hoot about the veracity of the story, only the emotional truth of the moment; I know I just said that was okay, but it's not something to get a tattoo about.
All's I know is, if someone gets a tattoo of anything I write, I'm going to feel really weird about it. From now on, I'm going to write every word as if it could possibly be inked onto some cute young person's epidermis. Um... not really. If I did that I'd never be able to click "publish post." Cuz there's no "edit post" button on a tattoo.