During Oprah's evisceration of "memoirist" James Frey yesterday, Nan Talese, who edited and published "A Million Little Pieces," said that Frey has written an author's note for future editions. In them, he will acknowledge what the first, best-selling edition failed to tell readers, namely that "parts of the book that have been changed."
Before he hits the send button, Frey might take a look at how Maria Dahvana Headley handled disclosure for her memoir, "The Year of Yes," which recounts what happened when she decided to accept every invitation for a date for a year.
Here's her author's note:
"This is a true story. That means that within these pages are plenty of people who actually exist. Some of these people are completely out of my life, and have been for years. Others, I still know and adore. In neither case do I want to break up any marriages, pry open any barricaded closet doors, or otherwise ruin any lives. Therefore, names have been changed to protect the indignant, the infantile, and, of course, the innocent (all three of you). Pretty much the only names I didn't change are my own (because I have no problem with muddying my own character), and Big White Cat's, because he is housebound and doesn't care if I tell the world his secrets.
One more thing. This book has been reconstructed from memory. My memory. Subject to vagaries, hangovers, emotional meltdowns, and the occasional unrequited vendetta. Some of the people in this book are gonna be happy about this, and some of you aren't. I've tried to be kind where I could be, and if I couldn't be entirely kind while still telling the truth, at least I've edited out some of your bad dialogue and made you wittier than you are."
As cops say, let's put out a BOLO (Be on the lookout) for other author's notes for memoirs that represent truth in advertising.
I learned about Headley's author's note from my editor, Julie Moos. If you know of any others that do a credible job of letting readers know what they're getting, please let me know.