By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated May 05, 2009 at 07:20 PM EDT
Frey Oprah
Credit: George Burns/Harpo Productions/AP Images

Prone-to-perhaps-slight-exaggeration author James Frey’s new paperback version of his latest book, Bright Shiny Morning,contains two scenes cut from the hardcover — including one in which a sorta-like-Frey character obtains embarrassing audio tapes of his Oprah-ish nemesis, Fox News reports with conviction. The other excised passage involves some seriously X-rated escapades, but everyone’s finding the Oprah-ish stuff far sexier. Makes sense, given the flogging-heard-round-the-world that the Queen of Daytime gave Frey when it emerged that some of his addiction/recovery memoir, A Million Little Pieces, was made up. In this salivated-over bit in the authors’-cut version of the new book, a guy embroiled in scandal is preparing to go on a TV show. When he feels “people turning on him,” he starts taping his phone calls with the producers and host of the show. After the appearance, the host calls him to make sure he isn’t “going to hurt himself” and makes some surprising confessions of her own while his tape recorder is rolling. Page Six, incidentally, asked Frey for comment, prompting him to laugh and say, “The book is fiction. Interpret it however you want.”

Nonetheless, news outlets are wondering whether Frey has bombshell tapes in his possession. So, to recap: The guy lied when writing supposed nonfiction, and we excoriated him for that. He then wrote fiction, which we are now presuming to be true, as opposed to, say, a dude with some penchant for blowing things out of proportion working out his own anger issues — in, I should mention, a relatively peaceful fashion. It’s a long, grand tradition in fiction, authors rewriting history to suit themselves, to process things that happened to them but give them better outcomes. It is, in some ways, the reason people become writers. We’re neurotic like that.

So what do you think, PopWatchers? Does James Frey really have secret, end-of-Oprah-as-we-know-her tapes? Or does he just know how to whip up a book-selling controversy?

addCredit(“George Burns/Harpo Productions/AP Images”)