Too Much Information   /   Spring 2015   /    Too Much Information

Why We Confess

From Augustine to Oprah

Elizabeth Bruenig

The Lovers (detail), 1928, by René Magritte; Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA/Bridgeman Images; © 2015 C. Herscovici/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The commodification of confession.

Oprah Winfrey wore a charcoal-gray blazer and sensible slacks, with understated pewter jewelry. She looked less a guru and more an attorney, which was fitting, because this segment was a deposition. Sitting opposite James Frey, the author of the best-selling 2003 ersatz biography A Million Little Pieces, Oprah took her guest to task with cool but wounded earnestness.

“I don’t know what’s true,” she said, “and I don’t know what isn’t. So… I wanted to start with this Smoking Gun report titled ‘The Man Who Conned Oprah.’ And, I want to know—were they right?”

Chastened, an ashen Frey replied, “I think most of what they wrote was accurate, absolutely.”

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