James Frey yesterday offered the first detailed explanation of why he embellished and lied about events in "A Million Little Pieces," his best-selling book: it made a better story.
"I wanted the stories in the book to ebb and flow, to have dramatic arcs, to have the tension that all great stories require," Mr. Frey said in an author's note released yesterday that will be included in future editions of the book. "I altered events all the way through the book," he added.
Also yesterday, Nielsen BookScan released figures showing that weekly sales of "A Million Little Pieces" have fallen by more than half since the disclosure of Mr. Frey's fabrications on Jan. 8, by the Smoking Gun Web site (thesmokinggun.com). In the most recent week, 58,000 paperback copies of "A Million Little Pieces" were sold in the outlets tracked by BookScan; these do not include mass-market retailers like Wal-Mart, which sell close to half of all paperbacks. At its highest point, the book sold 176,000 paperback copies in a week.
Last week's sales were the lowest since Oprah Winfrey chose the book for her television book club in September. On Jan. 26, Mr. Frey appeared on Ms. Winfrey's show and under her questioning, admitted to extensive fabrications.
In his author's note, a three-page essay titled "a note to the reader," Mr. Frey also said that officials at the rehab facility where he was treated had previously questioned his account of having a root canal procedure without anesthesia. "They believe my memory may be flawed," Mr. Frey wrote. Though he does not name the facility in the book, it has been identified elsewhere as Hazelden, in Center City, Minn.
Other events that Mr. Frey had previously defended as true but which, according to the statement, were invented, include "my role in a train accident that killed a girl from my school."
Repeating admissions he made last week on Ms. Winfrey's show, Mr. Frey also said he falsified descriptions of time spent in police custody and in jail.
Overall, his portrayal in "A Million Little Pieces," is of a person who "I created in my mind to help me cope" with drug addiction and recovery. He said most of the invented material "portrayed me in ways that made me tougher and more daring and more aggressive than in reality I was, or I am."
The events and details were invented, he said, "in order to serve what I felt was the greater purpose of the book," specifically to "detail the fight addicts and alcoholics experience in their minds and in their bodies, and detail why that fight is difficult to win."
"I sincerely apologize to those readers who have been disappointed by my actions," he said.
On the New York Times best-seller list to be published on Sunday, which reflects sales in the week ended Jan. 21, "A Million Little Pieces" is ranked No. 2 among paperback nonfiction books. But the editors of the list have added a note saying: "Both author and publisher acknowledge that this memoir contains numerous fabrications." David Drake, a spokesman for Doubleday, said the company will continue to market "A Million Little Pieces" as nonfiction, despite Mr. Frey's admissions.
"The publisher's statement and the statement from the author give the reader due warning," Mr. Drake said. "It is a memoir, albeit a flawed one."
Some experts on memoir disagree with that decision. William Zinsser, the author of several classic guides to the writing of memoirs and nonfiction, said in an interview yesterday that he thinks the author's note will significantly alter a reader's view of the book.
"I believe most readers of those statements would think, 'I don't know what I can believe,' and conclude, 'I will look for a book that is more authentic by a writer whose experiences are obviously true,' " Mr. Zinsser said.
On the message boards on Ms. Winfrey's Web site, oprah.com, more than 20,000 messages about the book have been posted since Mr. Frey admitted, on Ms. Winfrey's show, that he lied. Many of those messages criticize Ms. Winfrey for her anger at Mr. Frey and for turning against a book that many readers still embrace.
The publishers of "A Million Little Pieces," Doubleday and Anchor Books, said yesterday that they were printing 100,000 new paperback copies of the book and 3,500 hardcover copies that include both the author's note and a publisher's note explaining the controversy and apologizing for it. The publishers, both divisions of Random House Inc., also posted the note on randomhouse.com and said they will distribute it to booksellers to include in copies of the book already in stores.