November 13th, 2010 / 3:07 pm

This Week in Ghost Writing

I don't know. Here's this guy covered in bees. What is happening?

1. A little while ago I put up a note about ghost-writing, wondering if anyone had done it or would. Since then I found out that Ben Greenman ghost-wrote Gene Simmons’s tell-all memoir, which sounds like fun in a weird way. In the interview they don’t ask any follow up questions which is ridiculous considering the title of the piece is “Ben Greenman Ghost-Wrote the Celebrity Tell-All for Gene Simmons.”  All I can think of is a boy-faced Greenman trying to have a normal conversation with Simmons as he’s decked out in full KISS attire, or Greenman calling ex-lovers with cigarette-punctured voices to fact check which drugs they were taking when.

2. If you’re in the mood to get upset, have a look at this article about James Frey’s book-factory scheme. A friend who’s working on a book for them suggested I pitch one, too. It seems like basically a terrible idea. I feel greasy just thinking about it. Why are the MFA programs letting this crazy man into their classrooms? I do not know. I am currently abandoning hope. In general, I mean. All hope.

Will some of the trolls please have a look at the article and spew some much-deserved anger in the thread? Thanks. This one is ripe for a shouting match. (If only it were still Mean Week!)


  1. letters journal

      What is ‘fuzzy crosses’?

  2. Catherine Lacey

      And let’s all buy fuzzy crosses, too. Factory-written young adult tripe and fuzzy miniaturized replications of a torture technique. Buy, buy, buy! Money, money, money!

  3. Curt

      I’m down for fuzzy crosses only if other people are down for buying up magnetic ribbons to place on our vehicles. Oh! And all the truck-nutz in existence.

  4. Vladmir

      Frey’s a good candidate for a spanking. Soggy carpet with socks? Christ, man! You’re not a literary genius, you’re just a walking penis.

  5. Shane Anderson

      the best is when someone comes into the bookstore where i work and asks for someone like Frey. they always say, ‘i’d like the newest frey,’ and i say, ‘well since 2010, there have been X new books, which one do you mean?’ and they say, ‘gosh, that frey sure is productive,’ and i say, ‘yeah ghostwriters rule,’ and they say nothing, absolutely nothing just look at me like a kid who’s learned that santa claus doesn’t really exist and i always feel a little bad but not bad enough not to say it; obviously.

  6. Roxane

      I’m working on a post about that Frey article. Im totally obsessed with the whole thing. $500? Really? His balls must take up all the room in his pants. They are probably afflicted by some kind of infection. And I like his writing so I have a certain level of tolerance for his antics.

  7. letters journal

      What is ‘fuzzy crosses’?

  8. deadgod

      frey: engagingly ambitious; skin shimmers between ‘rhinocerotid’ and ‘waif-wafer’; poorly informed; gargoylativist

      fac fic: why not

      $250 for a book: what a ‘great depression’ sounds like

      40% of gross revenue: available on Earth??

  9. Catherine Lacey

      some confusing object that bought advertising space at the top of this website. Refresh if you haven’t yet encountered its glory.

  10. Jtchandl

      James Frey might be doing a great service to literature. Maybe the distinction between real (and by this I mean a lot of writing, not just the stuff we think of as literary) attempts at art (some other word better than art, ‘something that matters’? though that’s maybe just as ambiguous) and things made for the explicit (and maybe sole) purpose of making money will grow. Maybe this organization (while perhaps making us reevaluate what it means to be a writer and reader) will also help a lot of people realize exactly what they don’t want to write, what they don’t want to read, and what they really do and don’t believe. I don’t know. Is that too optimistic?

  11. Trey

      yeah I haven’t figured this fuzzy cross thing out yet. I saw a section that said “authors”, I think, and it seems sort of jokey but also sort of serious.

  12. Josh Spilker

      wrote about one of frey’s comments here (, but didn’t really talk about his method, which i don’t have a problem with. his general business model i don’t mind–books can have consumerist value, just like some of us might want mass-produced jeans compared to hand-sewn ones. just like tv shows have writing staffs or movies have several drafts. the common goal here is the idea. just like in these cases too however, it doesn’t mean that some “auteurs” will have their own vision thru film or tv, just like books have.

      the problem i think is coming in the form of the name & whose name is where.
      all of this doesn’t justify the pay–that’s ridiculous.

  13. Margritte

      Most people write books completely on spec. What’s the big deal?

  14. Rion Amilcar Scott

      The big deal is receiving $250 for your efforts. It’s exploitation.

  15. darby

      i dont see the big deal either. ive never been paid 250$ for any one thing ive written. people can choose to participate.

  16. Trey

      they’re reading the contracts. I didn’t get the impression that they were being forced to sign/forced to write.

  17. darby

      to be fair, i tl;dr’d the article, so im grasping for gists, but mostly there are too many actual injustices in the world to bring myself to care about this.

  18. letters journal

      Okay, I just went to the website. I don’t get it. They have stuff about prayer and then there are custom plush crosses. Why are they advertising here? Is it funny? Weird.

  19. Rion Amilcar Scott

      Yes, it’s difficult to feel bad for people who have options and every reason to know better, but I also think it’s fine to feel disgust for the exploiters. And sure there are other/bigger injustices in the world, but I got enough rage in my heart to fit Frey in.

      Look, there’s a certain amount of desperation that goes along with being an unestablished writer. I feel it everyday. It’s natural. Frey knows that desperation–he probably once felt it–and he’s taking advantage. That’s worthy of a certain amount of disgust, I think.

  20. Trey

      I see what you’re saying, this actually makes sense.

  21. mimi

      re: 2
      Yeah, at first I wanted to say “This is fucked up” but then I decided “(This) is something i just wouldn’t want to read”. I’m really trying hard to (civilly, disobediently) resist Everything pre-scribed in life. It’s tough. I want to/can’t let go of my fuel-efficient car/ride my bike everywhere/feel too lazy. I don’t want to order books from Amazon but I do anyway. I want a goat. I want to sleep outside in my back yard but I’m afraid of raccoons and skunks.

  22. Trey

      I totally get your last impulse. I always want to be outdoors/camp in the wilderness, but there are animals out there! Snakes!

  23. Dawn.

      Woooow. James Frey is one seriously ballsy motherfucker.

  24. Margritte

      It’s a 70/30 split of the back end. If the book sells, that’s more than $250. If these writers wanted to do it the ‘old-fashioned’ way – write the book, get an agent, agent sells the book, publisher publishes and everyone takes a cut – great. No one is forcing these writers to work with this book-packager/book-factory. So again, what’s the big deal? Just because it’s Frey? Who cares. And why only quote the NY Mag article written by an author who wanted to work with Frey and then got dumped? At least also reference the WSJ article which is slightly more measured while also being critical. I question Mozes’ intention and am curious to know what’s her back end in all of this.

  25. deadgod

      ha ha – maybe mozes is lying – why not? it’s ‘james frey’

      rion, above, makes an excellent case for a not-big deal to be made: no crime, no coercion (except in the sense that political economy ‘coerces’ vulnerable people to collaborate in their destruction), just heaps of – ok, ok: self-righteous – disgust

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  27. dole

      LOL James Frey! He should really be content-providing a Conchords/Office style show about his own struggle to become America’s Number One Tool.