I just read the New York Mag article about James Frey and Full Fathom Five. It's written by Suzanne Mozes, a writer who met with Frey and considered signing with Full Fathom Five.
Now that I've read this article, I'm a hundred times more disgusted with this Magical Writing Machine idea than before. Honestly, I just feel sick.
Consider this excerpt from Mozes:
"I later spoke to Conrad Rippy, a veteran publishing attorney, who explained that the contract given to me wasn’t a book-packaging contract; it was 'a collaboration agreement without there being any collaboration.' He said he had never seen a contract like this in his sixteen years of negotiation. 'It’s an agreement that says, ‘You’re going to write for me. I’m going to own it. I may or may not give you credit. If there is more than one book in the series, you are on the hook to write those too, for the exact same terms, but I don’t have to use you. In exchange for this, I’m going to pay you 40 percent of some amount you can’t verify—there’s no audit provision—and after the deduction of a whole bunch of expenses.'”
Despite claims that he's merely trying to revolutionize literature, James Frey sounds like a big bag of sleaze with a side of scum. I was aware of the controversy surrounding A Million Little Pieces, but had no interest in reading it or learning the specifics about what was or wasn't true. So today I decided I should find out. I read the original The Smoking Gun article from 2006, which revealed the many extensive fabrications in Frey's book as well as strongly suggesting that Frey is, well, an enormous jerk.
That article combined with the one by Mozes makes me think you have to be insane to be willing to enter into a "contract" with this guy. Writers, you're better than this. And you deserve better than this.
More importantly, READERS deserve better than this. They deserve real stories from the heart. Maybe you're sitting there and thinking, "Yeah, tell that to Stephenie Meyer." But you know what? I think she did write from the heart. You can criticize her literary skills all you want, but she poured her heart into that story, and that's what makes it come alive.