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A Publisher's Deceptions, Money Trumping Honor

Timothy Noah (Slate): Did Nan Talese Lie To Oprah? – What did James Frey’s publisher know and when did she know it? Yes, Talese learned about the particular fabrications exposed by The Smoking Gun (there were more than two) “at the same time” that Winfrey did. But Talese had reason to believe Frey hadn’t told the truth in his memoir well before that.

The behavior of Talese is becoming as much of a scandal as Frey’s own lies. As Noah explains in this piece, Talese knew long ago about the likelihood that Frey had made up a great deal of his so-called “memoir” — yet she kept pretending that there was no issue here.

Individuals deceive. This is life. But when big institutions aid and abet the deceptions — especially institutions like major (supposedly) nonfiction book publishers, where some effort in service of truth is supposed to be part of the bargain with the readers — they sink lower than the offending author.

Talese still has her high-profile and no doubt high-paid job. That is, in itself, a commentary on her employer, Random House, which in turn is owned by German media giant Bertelsmann AG.

Meanwhile, the Random House page about Frey’s book continues to call it an “uncommonly genuine account of a life destroyed and a life reconstructed.” And Slate leads the list of Talese’s favorite websites — we’ll see for how long.

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