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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Controversy Rages Over 'A Million Little Pieces'; Was Sago Mine Safe?
Aired January 12, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: "A Million Little Pieces," people say the book changed their lives. So, does it make any difference if parts of it simply are not true?
ANNOUNCER: "A Million Little Pieces," the controversy continues. James Frey clams up, refusing to answer more questions. But did he really explain why he lied about parts of his life? Tonight, separating fact from fiction in the book Oprah says she still supports.
Sago's sole survivor. Randy McCloy Jr. fights for his life, but shows signs of improvement. Tonight, what does it feel like to be in a carbon monoxide coma? A woman who was declared dead reveals her personal experience.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was unconscious, when I was in the coma, I could hear everything.
ANNOUNCER: Investigating Sago -- new details about the safety records of the Sago Mine -- crumbling roofs, accumulations of explosive coal dust, and a high degree of negligence for the health and safety of the miners. Tonight, what the records reveal about the dangers the Sago Miners really faced.
ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.
Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Good evening.
We begin with a book, "A Million Little Pieces," a featured selection in Oprah's Book Club, a harrowing account of drug, and booze, and redemption that sold close to two million copies last year alone. Some people say they owe their sobriety to it. Some even credit the book with saving their life. Just one thing: Parts of it are not true. Or, to be more precise, they don't entirely jibe with the facts.
After appearing on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night, author James Frey is no longer talking. No more interviews, his publisher says. That makes him just about the only person not talking about this book. On the Web, in newspaper, in book clubs all around the country, today, it was topic A.
Tonight, we will talk with Larry King, an editor from TheSmokingGun.com, as well as two well-known authors, the publisher of the book, and a number of Frey readers.
But, first, CNN's Kelly Wallace updates the controversy.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A surprise caller towards the end of Larry King's interview with controversial author James Frey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
LARRY KING, HOST: Are you there, my friend?
WINFREY: Hello, Larry, how are you?
KING: Hello, dear one, how are you doing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: On the line, Oprah Winfrey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
WINFREY: Hi, James. hi, Lynne.
JAMES FREY, AUTHOR: Hi, Oprah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Her first comments since explosive charges that parts of Frey's memoir of addiction and rehab were more fiction than fact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
WINFREY: The underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me, and I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book, and will continue to read this book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Winfrey seemed to stand solidly behind Frey and his book, A Million Little Pieces, her October pick for her ever-so- powerful book club, but placed some of the blame on the publishing industry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
WINFREY: I am disappointed by this controversy surrounding "A Million Little Pieces," because I rely on the publishers to define the category that a book falls within, and also the authenticity of the work. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Frey, clearly gratified by Winfrey's support, had one message that he repeated over and over to Larry King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
FREY: To be honest, I still stand by the book as being the essential truth of my life. I'll stand by that idea until the day I die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Regarding the allegations raised by TheSmokingGun investigative Web site that he fabricated key sections of the book, Frey says he has acknowledged embellishing some details, although there is no such disclaimer in his memoir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
KING: With the kind of incredible life you've had, why embellish anything?
FREY: I mean, I've acknowledged that there were embellishments in the book, you know, that I've changed things, that in certain cases things were toned up, in certain cases things were toned down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Frey, whose mom joined him at the end of the show, says there is one lesson he's learned after intense scrutiny of his book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
FREY: I'll absolutely never write about myself again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE (on camera): And the question now is, will this controversy hurt or help book sales?
Kelly Wallace, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, so far, apparently, it has not hurt. A quick check of Amazon.com shows "A Million Little Pieces" still at number one.
There was this development, however, today. Future editions of the book will carry a brief author's note -- no details yet on what it is going to say.
Now, more from the man who got James Frey to break his silence, Larry King. We spoke by phone earlier tonight.
COOPER: Larry, how do you think James Frey handled it?
KING: I think he handled it as well as he could, Anderson, under the circumstances.
The circumstances was that there are things in this memoir that are not up to speed. And faced with that situation, he handled it well. He turned it into, from a biography, which most people I think thought it was, into a memoir, which can be viewed differently. There are disputes about memoirs. Memoirs are memories of things.
I wrote a book about growing up in Brooklyn. It was just about Brooklyn. I assume everything in there was right. I tried to make it right. But there was no fabrication. So, I think, in -- in view of what he was faced with, he handled it well.
But I think Oprah probably saved the day.
COOPER: When -- when she called in, I mean, that was a surprise to you. I know she has said -- you know, she said on your show, she was trying to get through just calling the regular number. She couldn't get through at first. And Frey's mother seemed really relieved when -- when she heard what Oprah had to say.
KING: Boy, was she. I thought she was going to jump out of her skin. She's a very likable woman and, obviously, very much caring for her son.
And I think Oprah -- Anderson, a lot of people who came over and talked to me today, they said Oprah may have put this story away. Here is a guy that these -- well, they're not charges. He's not going to go to jail. He writes this extraordinary book. And it is an extraordinary book.
And -- and he's faced with all this disrepute. And then -- and here comes the woman who, I guess you could say sort of made him, who comes on to defend it as a book and as a concept and as important. So, this could wind up being a one-week story. I don't know. Unless something else breaks, where do you go with it now?
COOPER: And do you think this could actually help book sales? I mean, it certainly has given it tons of publicity.
KING: I saw you say that last night. I agreed with you then. I agree with you more now. I think it is number one at Barnes & Noble. It's number one on Amazon.
I think they're more interested in wanting to read it. I had not read it. I started reading it on the plane. I'm down in Tampa tonight. And it's engrossing. I mean, the guy can write.
Have you read it?
COOPER: I -- I have read it. And it is engrossing. Did he -- although, I must say, I personally -- it changes the way I look at it now. I'm thinking, well, if he was embellishing these things, how much of everything else is -- is accurate as well?
Did he answer your questions to -- to the extent you thought he would?
KING: Yes. I was most surprised at the admission that they submitted it as a novel and that Nan Talese, whose imprint is on the book and who is one of the most respected editors in America, decided -- they gave her a choice of publishing it as a novel or as nonfiction, and she went with nonfiction.
And that, to me, is a raw admission that -- that everything isn't totally up to snuff, because why would you say publish it as a novel?
COOPER: It -- it continues to be a fascinating controversy -- the fallout continuing today.
Larry King, thanks for calling in.
KING: Any time, Anderson. Thank you.
COOPER: Well, CNN's Larry King -- that was CNN's Larry King.
If Larry got the get, it was TheSmokingGun.com that got the goods on Mr. Frey. Smoking Gun, we ought to mention, is partially owned by our parent company, Time Warner.
Earlier tonight, we spoke with editor Bill Bastone.
COOPER: Bill, what did you make of what Frey said?
WILLIAM BASTONE, EDITOR, THESMOKINGGUN.COM: Well, I think that he acknowledged some of the stuff that was in our story, but kind of made a -- avoided a lot of other stuff, but pretty much continued -- frankly, I think he was lying about stuff. He never was straight with us.
He has been promoting the book for two-and-a-half years and basically lied continuously for two-and-a-half years.
COOPER: And it was only until you guys really came out and -- and had the goods on -- on these details, that he was even willing to admit, oh, yes, well, it's sort of, you know, my essential truth or whatever the term he used.
I mean, I think that had we not taken the time to go and look at the police reports and -- and take a look at what really happened, he would still be claiming that he spent three months in prison and he hit the cop with a car, and he had a bag of crack on him and...
COOPER: And, to me, what is more important, I mean, as someone just who -- who writes and also who read the book is that, you know, the essential truths of it, OK, he was in rehab for any given time. That's -- that's provable and that's true.
But the essential truths of it are -- I find now completely seem -- seem like fabrications, I mean, because the book seemed so honest and raw. Who knows what's real and know what is not?
Well, I mean, I think that's the big problem, because if you can -- if the only events in the book for which there exists like a public record, police reports, court files, Motor Vehicles records, put the lie to all that stuff, and then what you're left is believing James Frey's accounts of things that can't be confirmed by any person -- all of the people in the book are dead or apparently in prison for life.
Why would you -- why would you put any faith in anything the guy says?
COOPER: There are a number of inconsistencies. And I want to play one of the things that -- he talked about spending time in jail, spent three months in a county jail. Let's hear what -- what he had to say about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
JAMES FREY, AUTHOR, "A MILLION LITTLE PIECES": I don't discuss being in a jail cell in this book. In this book, I -- just, like I said, 420 of the 432 pages of it take place in a treatment facility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Denial ain't just a river. I mean...
BASTONE: Yes, but there are huge chunks of the first book in which he's talking about the judicial peril that he faces, how he's ready to do three years in a state prison. There are scenes in the rehab center with his parents. His mother is in tears. His father is saying, son, are we going to fight this? And he says, dad, no. And the father says, why?
And he says, because I'm guilty of all the charges. And I just don't want to do time in the max.
So, he's talking about going away to prison and how he's ready to do it.
COOPER: Also, the embellishments, or lies, whatever you want to call them, were clearly for a reason.
COOPER: It was to build himself... BASTONE: Absolutely.
COOPER: It wasn't just he was changing names and dates, which is what he kept saying on "LARRY KING." He was essentially changing who he was to make himself into this tough guy...
BASTONE: Of course.
COOPER: ... which he, apparently, you know, isn't.
Listen, it's very important to the book, the narrative of the book, to -- to paint himself as a really bad guy, because it propels the narrative. And this is the oldest trope in the book. It is a tale of redemption. It's what drove -- brought Oprah in and all those people, when the fact is, the guy was a well-to-do frat boy who partied it up and wrote for the college newspaper and played on the varsity soccer team, at a time when, if you believe the book, he was blacking out every day, he was having D.T.s, getting sick to his stomach every day. I mean...
COOPER: It doesn't quite -- quite fit into the...
BASTONE: No, or the fact that the guy -- like, this guy was a raging drug addict, but, somehow, he was able to graduate on time, which is -- maybe it was with help from his Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat brothers, perhaps.
COOPER: Bill, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.
COOPER: Well, now we are pleased to have our next three guests, Gay Talese, journalist, newspaperman and most recently author of, fittingly, "A Writer's Life." He's here with publishing powerhouse, who also happens to be his wife, not to mention the publisher of James Frey's book, Nan Talese.
Appreciate both of you being with us.
Also, we are joined by Carole Radziwill, author of "What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love." It was featured on Oprah's show just today.
Carole, thanks for being with us as well.
A lot to talk about.
First of all, Nan, I saw you shaking your head when you heard Larry say that, first, this book had been submitted as -- as -- as fiction. Is that not true?
NAN TALESE, PUBLISHER, "A MILLION LITTLE PIECES": It is totally untrue.
The book was sent to us at the imprint simply without any labels on it. My editor read it, gave it to me. I read it, and intending to sort of -- it was not a subject that I was particularly interested in. I was absolutely galvanized by it and came in the next day and said, we should publish it. In the entire publishing procedure, fiction never was mentioned.
COOPER: So, from the get-go, it was presented to you as a nonfiction book?
TALESE: It was presented to me as a manuscript. Usually, one doesn't label things. I guess would you say it's a novel, if it was, but it was simply to say it was -- no, it was a memoir of a man who had fierce drug addiction and overcame it.
COOPER: And when you hear memoir, Gay, what does that mean to you? Does that mean essential truths or does that mean absolute truths?
GAY TALESE, AUTHOR, "A WRITER'S LIFE": Well, it means a mirror of yourself, as best you can reflect yourself. It doesn't mean absolute truth, because we don't know absolute truth at all. But it certainly means a very vigilant and vigorous attempt to reflect yourself accurately and verifiably.
N. TALESE: OK.
COOPER: And, as a writer, you attempt to verify those facts? I mean, if you are writing and you are presenting it as a nonfiction memoir, would you attempt to make sure that what you are writing jibes with the years, the -- the reality?
G. TALESE: Yes. You're -- you're very accountable, if you're a nonfiction writer.
And I don't want to denigrate anyone who pretends they're a nonfiction writer, but don't seem to subscribe to the tenets of nonfiction, which is to be very, very, very accurate, even if it's memoir. Memoir does not mean that you can be at liberty with the truth or with your own research on yourself.
Carole, you have a memoir, a beautifully written, very poignant book.
CAROLE RADZIWILL, AUTHOR, "WHAT REMAINS: A MEMOIR OF FATE, FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE": Thank you.
COOPER: Is it true? (LAUGHTER)
RADZIWILL: Yes, it's true.
I -- I don't think the definition of memoir has ever been in dispute. It's a true account of the author's life. Perhaps there's some -- there's a difference between facts and truth. And everyone knows the facts of your life. When you're sitting down in front of a computer and it's just you and your keyboard, you know what the facts of your life are.
The truth is open to interpretation, of course, but the facts are the facts. And you can't insert yourself into scenes where you were never involved. You can't...
COOPER: As a writer, Carole, you -- we were just talking before, you wrote a scene in which you were very young and you were talking to a young girl.
COOPER: And, in your memory, she had a Diet Coke in her hand.
COOPER: You actually contacted Coca-Cola to find out if, in fact, they had Diet Coke in that year, correct?
RADZIWILL: I did. I did. And that's probably the reporter in me, and maybe not the writer. And maybe someone else wouldn't have done that.
But, no, I think it's important. And -- and truth matters. Truth matters. And I think people want to know that they're reading the truth. And the fact is, it's hard to sell fiction. You can ask Nan. She certainly knows much more about this than I do. But it is really hard to sell fiction. And I think it is, is because people want to read true stories.
They want to know that -- that they're reading about someone's life, and -- and that what they're reading is an accurate reflection of that life.
COOPER: Nan, why do you think he -- or, as a publisher, do you have any concerns that he felt the need to embellish some of -- I mean, I don't -- is it embellishment? Is it a lie? What -- what...
N. TALESE: You know, the reason we published the book was because of the power of the narrative of his rehabilitation and what he went through.
The two incidents that the blog picked out, those could be excised from the book. It makes no difference to the book.
COOPER: But does -- does it -- I mean, as a reader, to me personally, it makes me doubt his...
COOPER: I mean, what he keeps calling his essential truths, his internal dialogue, which is powerful and beautifully written, it makes me doubt it. If in fact he's pretending to be this badass -- I'm not sure I can that on TV -- but if he's pretending to be this guy, you know, crack-slinging, you know, police-punching guy, you know, all of a sudden, he's not. He's this guy who brings his mom to "LARRY KING."
N. TALESE: But -- but the fact is, here is a person from the age of 10, for 14 years, has been on alcohol and drugs. Perhaps -- I mean, I'm not a psychoanalyst, but perhaps he felt that he needed to make himself worse.
I mean, would an editor say to someone, I really don't believe that you're as bad as you are? I mean, this is what he said. In publishing, we do not check author's facts. The authors present their books and they guarantee they are truth.
If James exaggerated, which he now says he did, these two instances of his being really horrible, it is mistake. He apologized for it, or he didn't apologize, but he acknowledged it. The thing is, the thing that I'm saying is that, without those two scenes, I would have published the book. They are irrelevant to the essence of the book.
COOPER: I want to ask the same question to you, Gay and also to Carole. Why does this matter to you? Why should it matter to a reader or anyone watching right now?
G. TALESE: I believe that the credibility of the whole story depends upon the total effort of the writer to be responsible, even in matters that might not be relevant to the overall story.
I do not think there's a matter of 10 percent or 8 percent. I believe you really have to be 100 percent accountable. And, even if you fail -- and we all do, much as we try, but we certainly do -- we are flawed, as Jim recognizes himself, as a flawed figure.
But I do believe, when it comes to credibility, in this time when our country so much relies upon -- upon accountability and accuracy, or an attempt at accuracy and not being deceptive, I think that writers, no less than the government of the United States, no less than anyone in corporate life or television, has to be believed and has to be, if not entirely right, at least sincerely committed to being as right as you can be.
And I don't think there's any tolerance for kind of a minimum or minimalist attitude with regard to maximum credibility.
COOPER: Carole, why should people care about this?
RADZIWILL: I think it's unconscionable for an author to go on national television and say he lied about 5 percent of his memoir. And -- and the fact that we all say, oh, OK, well, it's only 5 percent, and maybe that's not really the essence of the story, I think, have we gotten that cynical, where it really doesn't matter if we're lied to? Has it -- I feel like we live in this culture of deceit. And it comes from the very top, from our government on down, where we don't even recognize the truth anymore.
And I think that's a really sad, sad state of affairs.
N. TALESE: I agree that that is true, what Carole said, but what she said is, it is terrible that an author goes on television to say that he exaggerated.
James Frey was an addict first and an author. He did not intend when he wrote this book to have a -- well, I don't know. I mean, he might have later. But he did not start out as a career as a writer, as perhaps Carole had. This was a testament to what he went through. There are flaws in it.
If Gay and I wrote a story about our marriage, there would be no objective truth in it.
COOPER: Although, I must say, I would like to read that story.
COOPER: Because the fact that you two disagree so much, and yet are together. You guys must have amazing conversations at home, which I would...
G. TALESE: And separate rooms.
COOPER: Thank you very much for joining us.
G. TALESE: Appreciate it.
N. TALESE: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: It's obviously a debate not going away. Appreciate it, really, both of you.
G. TALESE: Thank you.
COOPER: Truly, it's an honor to be with both of you. G. TALESE: Appreciate it.
COOPER: I was re-reading some of -- of Mr. Talese's stories today. And -- and the writing is just extraordinary.
G. TALESE: Thank you so much.
COOPER: And, Carole, as well, thank you so much for being with us, Carole.
James Frey has company on the shelf that lies between fiction and nonfiction. Up next, a best-selling collection of some embellishers, embroiders, and maybe some outright fakers as well.
And, later, we have already hinted at the power of Oprah. See how it works firsthand.
You're watching 360. Stay with us.
COOPER: We are talking about "A Million Little Pieces" and whether it's a big deal that author James Frey made some of it up.
No problem, said the office wise guy earlier today. Just add a third literary category, he said. Make it fiction, nonfiction and something in between. We would call this an original idea, but the fact is, there's nothing novel about either the category or the need for it.
COOPER (voice-over): James Frey joins a short, but vivid list of authors, memoirists and writers accused of exaggeration, misrepresentation or outright fabrication.
In the mid-'80s, best-selling author Jerzy Kosinski was accused of partially embellishing and partly making up his autobiographical novel, "The Painted Bird," a shocking memoir of a 6-year-old boy in Nazi-occupied Poland, abandoned by his parents and surviving the Holocaust alone.
In fact, Kosinski was never abandoned and was protected by his parents throughout the war.
In 1991, another number-one nonfiction best-seller was exposed as a total fabrication. "The Education of Little Tree" was the award- winning, allegedly true story of a 10-year-old half-Cherokee boy that was in fact the fictional creation of a man who was not only white, but a white supremacist, Asa Carter, a Ku Klux Klan member and former speechwriter for George Wallace.
In 1971, Clifford Irving claimed his biography of millionaire Howard Hughes was based on in-person interviews with the famous recluse. The manuscript turned out to be based on nothing more than Irving's imagination. Irving did time in federal prison for the fraud.
Two German men also did time for prison for forging the lost diaries of Adolf Hitler and selling them as historical documents in 1983 to the German magazine "Stern" and "Newsweek."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SHATTERED GLASS")
HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN, ACTOR: I don't know what you're talking about, OK? Those are all real people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Fabrication is not reserved for book authors. The recent movie "Shattered Glass" recounts the story of Stephen Glass, a writer for "The New Republic" magazine who fabricated quotes, sources, even entire events.
"New York Times" reporter Jayson Blair was also exposed for writing about people he had never met, places he had never been.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
JAYSON BLAIR, FORMER "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER: We're in the information age now, we're at our fingertips, on our laptops and our computers, we have access to databases that give us video feeds and pictures. And with, you know, cell phone and telephones, we can, you know, not only mask our locations, but obtain all sorts of information we wouldn't otherwise be able to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Cell phones and e-mail are said to be part of a ruse perpetrated by J.T. Leroy, a San Francisco-based cult novelist who is not only accused of making up the sad and sordid past he writes about, but being a wholly made-up person himself.
Just this week, "The New York Times" published evidence that the person who writes as J.T., a 25-year-old former male hooker and drug addict, is actually a 40-year-old mother from Brooklyn, and that the person who makes appearances as J.T. is that woman's sister-in-law in a wig and sunglasses.
All of this proves -- well, we're not exactly sure what, except that Mark Twain was right. Twain, who was really Samuel Clemens, and wrote some pretty questionable autobiographical fiction of his own, said, truth is stranger than fiction.
COOPER: So, did the power of Oprah get James Frey off the hook for what he says were embellishments in his book, "A Million Little Pieces"? We will explore that shortly.
But, first, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we're following right now.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson.
We start off tonight, actually, with a violent attack caught on tape. A security camera caught two young men beating a homeless man with bats. It's horrific. This happened earlier today in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was one of three attacks on homeless in the area early this morning. One of those victims died. Authorities say up to four suspects may be involved. They're not positive the incidents are connected.
In Dallas, Texas, searching for the cause of a massive fire at a large condo complex. The flames caused part of the building's exterior wall to collapse, destroying dozens of apartments and leaving more than 100 people without a home.
In Alaska, a quiet day for Augustine volcano. Seismic activity fell for the first time in days, leading officials to lower the threat level. Now, over the last few weeks, the volcano has been spewing ash and steam high into the atmosphere. Experts say the once-sleeping giant could erupt at any moment.
And on a lighter note, in Taiwan, it ain't easy being green, especially for pigs. I'm sure those guys don't look green, but just wait. For reasons we can't explain, researchers bred three male pigs with a fluorescent protein, paving the way for some neon-based piglets. Some call them a little green. I have to say, on my monitor, they don't look that green. But, you know, heart of gold inside there, Anderson.
COOPER: I see your green piglet and I raise you a Wasabi puppy.
COOPER: Do you remember the little puppy that was...
HILL: Of course.
COOPER: ... allegedly born green?
COOPER: With unexplained reasons.
We actually have new pictures. It's a golden retriever. And, apparently, the color is now gold. So...
HILL: Look at that.
COOPER: Yes. It's not green anymore at all.
HILL: So, I guess he grew out of it, huh? COOPER: I guess so. They say the Wasabi puppy is healthy and happy.
HILL: Did they call him Wasabi, by the way?
COOPER: They did. They called him Wasabi.
HILL: That's good stuff.
COOPER: But I guess (INAUDIBLE)
COOPER: Erica, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Green is also the color of money. And money is what rains down on authors when Oprah Winfrey endorses their books. Just ahead, the Oprah effect and how it can even bring 100-year-old books back from the dead.
Later, a woman's story of how carbon monoxide almost killed her and what it was like to be silent witness to her own coma.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The physician that was present declared me dead. I heard myself being declared dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We return to the controversy over "A Million Little Pieces", James Frey's memoirs. Be they truth or fiction or something in between, even I can weigh in on it. Everyone else is. They're burning up the blog-o-sphere. But in a way what next may all come down to the same undeniable fact that help made the book a bestseller in first place. It is still Oprah's world, and we just talk about it. Here is CNN's Heidi Collins.
OPRAH WINFREY: We support the book because we recognize that there have been thousands and hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been changed by this book.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That was Oprah Winfrey saving the bacon, the book, and maybe the career of author James Frey.
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Our next book is -- "A Million Little Pieces."
COLLINS: Of course, it was Oprah who started the book's juggernaut back in September when she chose it as a selection for her book club, and sent it soaring to the top of Amazon's bestseller list. It's still there. There's a reason why "Forbes" magazine named the daytime diva the most powerful celebrity in the world.
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": She's able to move commerce, she's able to move the culture and she's able to tug at American women and men's heartstrings.
COLLINS: She tugs at heartstrings and tells them what to read. "A Million Little Pieces" is the 56th book Oprah's pitched to her public since she started the book club in 1996, making household names out of often-obscure authors.
In 2000 she chose "Gap Creek" by Robert Morgan. Within a month the book sold 650,000 copies. With her stamp of approval, she makes best selling authors out of new writers.
OGUNNAIKE: If you're a no-name author and she puts your book in her book club, you are going to be on the bestsellers list.
COLLINS: And she gives new life to old classics. Her choice of the 1875 Tolstoy novel, "Anna Karenina", forced the publisher of a new translation to rush 1 million extra copies into print.
OPRAH: There ain't nothing wrong with a little bit of bling.
COLLINS: It's not just books, but bling that Oprah turns into bestsellers. Every year she showers her audience with her favorite stuff from diamond watches to iPods, from Burberry coats to laptop computers.
And they all start selling like hot cakes. Something she hasn't given away yet.
OGUNNAIKE: People trust her opinion. People believe in her taste. And they know that she is not going to BS them. If she believes in something, and she likes something, she'll go all out for that thing or that person.
OPRAH: I'm going to change, with your help, the laws in this country, state by state by state by state.
COLLINS: Oprah may have the power to push products, but she's also got the power to put away the bad guys. She recently featured the FBI's most wanted child molesters on her show; 48 hours later, two pedophiles were behind bars.
OPRAH: I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book.
COLLINS: And with a few minutes on "Larry King Live" Oprah turned a PR nightmare into a book selling bonanza. James Frey has found himself a powerful friend. Heidi Collins, CNN, New York.
COOPER: And I confess, I buy some of Oprah's favorite things. I bought her coconut macaroons, and they were pretty good. What do her readers have to say about the controversy? Next on 360, we'll head out to Lansing, Michigan, and get their take on Mr. Frey and his book.
Also new revelations about safety problems at the Sago mine. Enough perhaps to trigger disaster, but were the enough to shut the mine down? Should that mine have been shut down before the miners ever stepped inside?
From New York, and around the world, you're watching 360.
COOPER: So back to the book, the author and Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah Winfrey has done more man make James Frey a best selling author. Through her book club she sent the likes of John Steinbeck and Leo Tolstoy back up the charts. With us now some club members and readers at Schuler's Books in Lansing, Michigan. Amanda Snook, Robin Gleason and Yvette Collins.
Appreciate all of you being with us. Yvette, let me start with you, why did your book club decide to read this book?
YVETTE COLLINS, BOOK CLUB MEMBER: Well, we sort of did a community pick. And someone had seen it on Oprah's show. That was one of the -- you know, she said she saw James Frey and thought it was great and it was an interesting book. And we elected it. We read it in December.
COOPER: The fact now that it turns out he's made some stuff up, does it change the way you think about the book or the author?
COLLINS: Oh, yeah, for me it did, quite a bit.
Because I liked the book, but I think I liked a lot of it just knowing that he made his way through the addiction and the -- you know, kind of the tragedies that hurt him, or the things that had impacted his life.
And just to find out that, you know, some of that didn't happen makes me doubt everything that I read in the book, really.
COOPER: Robin, would it change the book for you had he not, you know, pretended to be this kind of, you know, police punching, rebel guy?
ROBIN GLEASON, BOOK CLUB MEMBER: No, really it wouldn't. I don't see the book really as a story about his life as a criminal. I see it really as a story about his life as a drug addict. And you know, his experience and his recovery, the friends he met along the way. And kind of his unconventional way that he approached his addiction. I really thought that was a very minor part of the book, and it doesn't really change my view of the book at all.
COOPER: Amanda, you worked at a book store where James Frey was to have a teleconference, canceled the other day. That's correct?
AMANDA SNOOK, SALESPERSON, SCHULER'S BOOKS: That's correct. COOPER: Have book sales been affected one way or another by this?
SNOOK: They've been affected in a positive way for it, which as a book store we're pleased about. As people who like to inspire reading. But they were obviously very much booming because of the Oprah show, and subsequently there's a lot of talk about this.
I mean, it's on every major media outlet that there is. And there is a lot of talk about this and where this takes publishing and book selling as a whole. So yeah, the commotion has brought it even more so to the forefront.
COOPER: Yvette, should it still be called a nonfiction book, do you think?
COLLINS: No. I don't think so. Because there's -- you know, things that -- I went to the SmokingGun Web site and read some things. Some of the things that I read there changed the way I looked at the book. And I just don't know what's truth or, you know, fiction.
COOPER: And what we do know is that James Frey is no longer giving interviews. His publisher announced today that was it, Larry King last night and that was it. So that is all he has to say on the subject. They're going to put something in new editions of this book, we're not sure whether it's a disclaimer or exactly what, but some sort of explanation from the author. We'll look for new editions for that.
Amanda, Yvette and Robin, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.
Almost nine days ago Randy McCloy, Jr. was carried out of the Sago mine. His family hasn't left his side since. How far has he come and how much further does he have to go? A medical update in a moment; we'll update you on his condition from Morgantown, West Virginia.
Also, like Randy McCloy, a woman who survived carbon monoxide poisoning and the coma that followed, nearly 12 years ago. She says having loved ones nearby and talking to her during the coma helped her recovery. Her story ahead.
COOPER: So if the attention of an entire country can have a positive effect on someone's condition, then Randy McCloy, Jr., the only survivor of the Sago mine disaster earlier this month, is getting some very powerful medicine indeed.
He has the hopeful eyes of a couple hundred millions Americans trained on him. Christopher King is standing by with the latest on Randy McCloy's status -- Christopher.
CHRISTOPHER KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson. Randal McCloy remains in stable but critical condition here at Ruby Memorial Hospital, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Doctors say that his collapsed lung is improving. They performed two operations on McCloy on Wednesday. They say to, quote, "reduce the chance of infection" and to, quote, "lessen discomfort". They performed a tracheostomy. That is basically an opening in the neck to put a breathing tube in his neck. They also placed a feeding tube in McCloy's stomach.
Hospitals say that both operations are standard procedures for patients in intensive care. Doctors are tracking his fever to make sure he doesn't come down with something like pneumonia or other infections.
Doctors also are surprised that McCloy was able to survive as long as he did survive breathing in as much carbon monoxide as he did. Remember, he was down in that Sago mine for more than 42 hours before rescuers were able to get to him.
Now, he has been receiving a great deal of support. Country western singer Hank Williams stopped by to see Randal McCloy in the hospital yesterday. McCloy, of course, is a big fan.
Also another somewhat less -- or more of a sad note. Opportunists are trying to cash in on this tragedy. There have reports circulating that many people have been receiving e-mails from someone who claims to be a doctor from West Virginia University Hospital, claiming to collect money for Randal McCloy.
Now neither the hospital nor its doctors say that they're trying to collect money for McCloy. These e-mails so far prove to be bogus. They appear to have come from India.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon, there will be a memorial service for the 12 miners who died in that Sago mine. It will be held at West Virginia Wesleyan University in Buckhannon. And the Governor of West Virginia Joe Manchin will be there. Along with the families of those 12 miners -- Anderson.
COOPER: Christopher King; thank you very much, Christopher.
Randy McCloy and his fellow miners were trained to defend themselves against carbon monoxide poisoning. It was after all a danger they lived with every time they went underground. For some 500 other Americans each year carbon monoxide is an unexpected killer; a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that does its damage quickly.
More than a decade ago it caught Catherine Mormile off guard in Alaska where she was competing in her third Iditarod race. She took a break to change her socks, and a propane heater in an unvented tent almost killed her --almost. I talked to her earlier today.
COOPER: Catherine, when you began feeling nauseous and slipping into unconsciousness inside this tent, did you realize why it was happening? DR. CATHERINE MORMILE, FMR. IDITAROD RACER: No. I certainly didn't. I didn't realize at all what was happening or why it was happening. I fully construed that I had eaten my meal so quickly and so hastily. That's the conclusion I drew.
COOPER: What were you feeling? What did it actually feel like to be breathing this stuff in?
MORMILE: Well, it doesn't feel like anything. It just felt like air. It felt like normal air. Obviously, because the vents in tent were closed, it felt like a very stuffy tent and a warm tent, but all I felt was nausea. I felt nausea. And I felt slight shortness of breath and I construed it was because of the tightness and the heat of the tent.
COOPER: When you finally got home from the hospital, your IQ had plunged to around 76. That's amazing. I didn't know that could happen. What was that like? What were some of the limitations, mentally, that you had?
MORMILE: When I got home from this event, I went to pick up my mail and I was first very appalled because I couldn't read anything. Everything looked like a bunch of very strange symbols.
COOPER: You couldn't read what was on your mail, that's incredible.
MORMILE: Exactly. And if I stared at it long enough, letters would assemble. But I would look at it, I could maybe perceive it. Then I'd turn away and look at something else, but I couldn't remember what I had just looked at. I had no memory for anything I had read.
COOPER: What's your advice to the family of Randy McCloy, Jr., and to him, you know, when he wakes up?
MORMILE: I do want to tell his family that in my experience, when I was unconscious, when I was in the coma, I could hear everything. I was more -- almost more present in the moment with my hearing than anything. I could hear everything that was going on around me.
And I do believe that it's important for his family members to talk to him. Obviously, as he is there in the present, and to encourage him to continue to fight.
COOPER: How long were you in a coma for?
MORMILE: I was in a coma -- well, I was in a coma in the tent for several hours. Then on the ground, oh, probably at that point, about a half an hour or so. And then the physician that was present declared me dead. I heard myself being declared dead.
COOPER: You actually heard yourself being declared dead?
MORMILE: Yes. I heard myself being declared dead. And then the man that was carrying my dead body dropped me, dropped me on the ground, and it started my heart again.
COOPER: You say you feel you know where Randy McCloy, Jr. is in terms of his head, what is going on. Describe what it is like. And what can you remember about being in a coma?
MORMILE: It's very strange to say. But it was a very euphoric, it was a very pleasant, it was a very calm experience that I had when I was in the coma. I felt no pain. I felt no presence of my body, whatsoever. I mean, people said that I convulsed at times, I was vomiting, I was thrashing about.
But I personally didn't feel it. I was very calm. And I was very comforted by the people around me. I knew some of the people around me really cared for me.
COOPER: So what exactly happened at the Sago mine? We'll have the latest on the investigation into the underground accident that eventually cost 12 men their lives and put the nation through an agony of false hope.
And we'll return to a place that was nearly wiped off the map almost five months ago, by Hurricane Katrina, the floods that followed, Waveland, Mississippi, "Then and Now". You're watching 360.
COOPER: Questions, many, many questions are being asked about what happened to the Sago mine in West Virginia on the 2nd of January. And some of those questions are beginning to be answered, too, but not always comfortingly. Tom Foreman has the latest on the investigation.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A blizzard of inspection reports released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration is providing previously undisclosed, and potentially troubling details about safety violations in the Sago mine before the fatal blast.
The reports cite crumbling roof, accumulations of explosive coal dust, a badly maintained escape route, and less than a month ago a high degree of negligence for the health and safety of the miners. In short, a lot of problems.
BOB FRIEND, MSHA ACTING DEPUTY ASSIST. SECRETARY: I think 96 of them were determined to be significant and substantial type. Is that too many for a mine that size? Well, perhaps.
FOREMAN: The International Coal Group, which owns Sago, is contesting some of the findings, and the reports point out that many of the problems were being cleared up. But key questions remain. One focus for investigators, the seals that separated the working mine, from the older closed portion, where the blast is believed to have originated.
RAY MCKINNEY, MSHA: Found out that all the seals were completely destroyed, blown out.
FOREMAN: Those seals which consisted of block walls, similar to this one, were put into place only a month ago. Whether or not they should have contained an explosion is unclear, but investigators say the mine company was supposed to monitor any gas buildup behind the seals.
Did the company do so? That also is unclear. As for the rest of the troubles, the International Coal Group says it can't explain actions by the mine's previous owner.
BEN HATFIELD, CEO, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: The International Coal Group will not attempt to explain or defend the violation history of this mine prior to the time we gained management oversight.
FOREMAN: But it turns out the man who controlled IGC today, billionaire Wilbur Ross, has controlled the Sago mine for a long time. His office has confirmed he was a major stockholder in Anchor Mining the previous owner of Sago, and he was a member of the company's board of directors in 2001.
Still, he says he has no inkling of any potentially fatal problems.
WILBUR ROSS, CHAIRMAN, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: We had no reason to believe that this mine was unsafe.
FOREMAN (on camera): So when will we get to the bottom of all this? Federal and state investigators have not entered Sago mine since the accident. They're waiting until new ventilation pipes drain off more of that explosive methane.
(Voice over): They hope to make it inside by the middle of next week. And then to the spot where the fatal blast happened. So far, unseen by any living soul. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Still a lot of questions there. We'll continue following the story. We want to thank our international viewers for watching. Coming up, though, on 260, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, where a lot of people are still waiting for a trailer from FEMA. Can you believe that? For more than four months? And guess what? There are plenty of trailers right there that are not being used. Those are the ones. They're not being used.
Plus, are you sleep deprived? We'll talk with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about why so many of us are and what can you do about it. Part of our special series, "Mind & Body".
And in California a kidnapped child might have been reunited with his parents sooner if the cell phone company that knew where he was had chosen to cooperate with police. An unbelievable story, find out who the company is. Stay with us on 360.
COOPER: Good evening again, everyone. The president says he sees a lot of progress along the Gulf Coast since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. But what do the people who live there say?
ANNOUNCER: "Keeping them honest": President Bush returns to New Orleans four months after promising to do what it takes to rebuild the city. But so far, few are happy with the progress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't get somebody to go pick that up, or pay for that because I don't have the check to do that.
Horrifying images caught on tape. A string of brutal attacks police think are related.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any time you have this type of vicious behavior, it's not going to go away. They'll strike again.
ANNOUNCER: Can you help identify these men before they strike again?
And what you didn't know about hitting the sack. Can sleep loss actually lead to weight gain? 360 separates sleep fact from sleep fiction. From across U.S. and around the world, this is Anderson Cooper, 360, Live from the CNN Studios in New York. Here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Good evening again. Some pointed reaction to President Bush's visit today to New Orleans. That's coming up.
First, let's take a look at the stories we're following at this moment.
In Washington, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has wrapped up his Senate testimony. Barring the unforeseen, he seems certain to take Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the high court. Alito, again, refused to say that he decision legalizing abortion was settled law. President Bush phone Alito from Air Force One, telling him he was proud of the way he handled it. He also told him he showed great class.
Saudi Arabia, once again, the Hajj, Muslims annual pilgrimage to Mecca has been marred by a fatal stampede.
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