Intense, unpredictable, and instantly engaging, this is a story of drug and alcohol abuse and rehabilitation as it has never been told before. It is also the introduction of a bold and talented literary voice. Before considering reading this book, please see the BookBrowse note on the book jacket/review page.
BookBrowse Note: January 9th 2006: An article in the Smoking Gun claimed that James Frey (author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard) fabricated key parts of his books. They cited police records, court documents and interviews with law enforcement agents which belie a number of Frey's claims regarding criminal charges against him, jail terms and his fugitive status.
In an interview with the Smoking Gun, Frey admitted that he had 'embellished central details' in A Million Little Pieces and backtracked on claims he made in the book.
January 26th 2006. Frey's publisher stated that while it initially stood by him, after further questioning of the author, the house has "sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished." It will be adding a a publisher's note and author's note to all future editions of A Million Little Pieces.
James Christopher Frey is an American author and entrepreneur. After battling with alcohol addiction and spending time in rehab, he wrote A Million Little Pieces which was published in 2003 in America and the following year in the UK to critical acclaim. He wrote the sequel, My Friend Leonard about life after rehab, which was published in 2005 in the US and the year after in the UK.
James Frey now lives in New York with his wife, daughter and dog. He is still writing. Most recently he has published Bright Shiny Morning, and his new book The Final Testament of the Holy Bible will publish on 12 April and is available for pre-order now.
He is also one of the authors that share the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, author of the Lorien Legacies.
I did go into this book after the whole scandel business went down, and I went in not caring if it wasn't quite as factual as some may thinkg. Going in knowing this, I had a fairly open mind thinking of it more as a "based on a true story" kind of memoir (hey if I was writing about rehab I would probably change a few things too). However, even going in with this mind set I was SO irritated that this piece of crap had ever been sold as non-fiction. And no, it wasn't the fact that most of the book was clearly made up, but a number of other things. First off, there were far too many fancy "only in the fiction world" events. If a crack head runs away from rehab, the guy that doesn't like him isn't going to come and help him on his mission. If a crackhead breaks the number one rule of the rehab centre they aren't going to give him a second chance just because he is so incredible. Now, that being said, the second thing that irked me was how Frey tried to make himself into a hero. At no point in this book do I congratulate Frey for overcoming his addictions. I just don't care because I don't know what's true and what isn't. Frey explains to us over and over and over again how he is apparently the only person who has ever walked on the planet that can overcome addiction without the twelve steps. All of his support says in this book, "It won't work James, no one has ever stopped being an addict without the twelve steps." Well, James the miracle can! He can stop this just with the power of his mind. He is also strong enough to go into a crackhouse while in rehab and not do any crack and as he's leaving rehab he can sit infront of a huge class of whiskey and not drink it. Well! Good job James! You are the most incredible person on earth (that's what he wants us to say isn't it?) Third, I hate the bit at the end of the book that "explains" what happens to all of the other characters. You expect every single event. It's like the "You get what's coming" ending. It was lame. Finally, I hate hate hate this Writing style. Little picky things, I know, but I found it made this book very hard to read. Repeats of everything. Random words capitalized in the middle of a sentence. It irritated me to no end, in fact I could barely finish this book. I want to forget forget forget this book.
My Book Club chose to read this Book for the month of June. I had owned it for years and never gotten around to reading it. Then I read it. The Book. A Million Little Pieces. It is the allegedly true but probably not story of a Man who smokes a lot of crack and huffs gas and drinks and drinks and drinks until he is so sick he blacks out and he worries his friends and his family until he is sent to a Clinic. He has no front teeth and his cheek has a gash. He is hurt from smoking crack and huffing gas and drinking and drinking and drinking. He is a mess. He needs help. He is a mess and he needs help. He does not want to be at the Clinic and fights all the Rules for the first 200 pages. But the Man meets some Friends who help him through the tough times, a Girl who he falls in love with, and a hard-nosed psychologist who does not give up on him. The Man is sure he can kick his habit without the help of God or Twelve Steps. This is his story. Allegedly. I like this book, I thought, when I first started reading it, even though I knew it was probably 80% bull. I will read it anyway, I thought. It is a fast read. Look at how fast I am reading this book! What a fast read. And then the Book started to annoy me. Why aren't there quotation marks? It is not like a Cormac McCarthy book that eschews punctuation for the sake of sparse, beautiful writing. It is just eschewing for the sake of eschewing. This is ridiculous. Why does the Man who writes the book capitalize some Nouns but not other nouns? Is the Man doing it because he thinks it's artsy? I don't think a memoir should be artsy as much as it should be factual. Why are there no paragraph breaks or margins? Is it because the Man is a Rule-breaker and Hard-nosed and because he has a Devil May Care attitude? I think the Man just thinks he's cool, and Cool Guys don't need margins or paragraph breaks. Why does the Man keep repeating things? He eats eggs. He eats cheese. He eats eggs and cheese. He vomits and vomits and vomits and vomits. He is scared and heartbroken and worried and mad and facing his anger and wanting to drink and do drugs and hurt himself. He is scared and heartbroken and worried and mad and facing his anger and wanting to drink and do drugs and hurt himself. I want to hurt him for writing lists instead of sentences. I also want to hurt him For Doing. Things. Like. This. But there's something about the book that made me want to read more. And I read it. I didn't throw it across the room in a fit of Rage. It made me not want to do Crack. But I've never wanted to do Crack. And maybe that's why my Million Pieces are still together.
I read MLP in the spring of 2004 after it was recommended to me by an internship supervisor-turned-friend when I shared with her a story I wrote about a man addicted to cocaine, inspired by true life events. Her life had also been touched by addiction and when she learned that mine was, she lent me the book. I was pulled in by it, chewed up, and spit out with everything put back together differently. Together, we dissected it at length, comparing battle scars reopened by Frey's raw-edged prose. We were the only ones we knew who had read it, and we didn't dare recommend it to just anyone. It was too weighty, the subject material cut too deep. No, MLP was like a secret club, something to be shared prefaced with a disclaimer of "It's really intense, and kind of gory at parts, impossible to read at others, but you might like it ..."
Then, Oprah happened. Dear, sweet, well-meaning Oprah departed from her usual selections and took her book club down a more gnarled, jagged path. Before long, suburban housewives were gasping when Frey vomited for the twelfth time, themselves gagging on lunch when he got his root canal with only tennis balls to squeeze to control the pain until his nails shattered, discussing his every relapse over coffee, weeping when he found the redemption he had fought so hard against.
Then, The Smoking Gun happened. They broke open his story, exposing alleged embellishments and outright fabrications. They vilified him, putting him down in a fiery pit with the likes of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. The millions of sheep Oprah shepherded Frey's way responded in kind, guided by a new messiah with a new message: Frey was a dirty, rotten man who should be spit upon if you run into him on the street. And certainly don't waste your tears and pity on such a despicable individual.
They feel betrayed. They welcomed this man into their hearts, they prayed for him, and parts of him never existed. That's all this book is to them-- the tragic story of a reluctant an unlikely hero. A bit less palatable than, say, Macbeth, but the archetype is still the same.
The Smoking Gun does have some hard evidence, I'm not going to lie. I don't know Frey personally, I don't know anything about him beyond what he has written. However, it doesn't diminish how I feel about the book. There are those of us, like my friend and I, with whom the book resonated due to an association with addiction, can appreciate it for what it is, however true or fabricated it may be.
I'm still haunted by things I read in that book. I keep going back to the root canal scene. That's one of the parts of the book that's under suspicion. Whether it happened or not, it's still captivating. My own mother is in recovery with over a decade of sobriety. She has to be very careful with what medications they use, no matter how much pain they're in, or how detatched they'd like to be. She's been clean and sober for over a decade, yet there are choices she to make every day with regards to keeping that sobriety. No, it's not as intense as the root canal scene. Both, however, serve as examples of how that one drink after work can turn into 4 drinks and then passing out can turn into something that will direct the rest of your life.
The fact of the matter remains, the writing is solid and the story is compelling. Frey is no Janet Cooke and MLP is no Jimmy's World.
If you read the book and you got a glimmer of hope from it, whether it be about your own addiction or the demons a loved one has faced, then it's still a worthwhile read.
So bad, it's eminently quotable. I fondly remember lines like, "I endured, I endured, I fucking endured" and "a bayonet, an eight-foot bayonet, a fucking eight-foot bayonet" both during his traumatic root canal (poor Jimmy), and "Like a child being burned alive, a child being burned alive, a child being fucking burned alive," Frey's way of describing a grown man's screaming at the top of his lungs. See the pattern here? Forgive me if I misquote him by leaving out ellipses. No, I didn't demand a refund on my copy: I borrowed the book from a friend. You could say this is stunning prose in that it feels like an eight-foot bayonet being rammed through you, but then I've never been bayoneted, so I wouldn't know.
So I read this knowing it was a total work of fiction, but I think I would have gotten it even if I hadn't known. It was just such utter crap -- oh, look at me, I'm so fucked up I can't even look myself in the eyes, in fact I'm more fucked up than EVERYONE else around me at this drug rehab facility, and yet somehow everyone just instinctively loves me -- and look how tough I am, I can undergo dental surgery without anesthesia, because I AM HARD-CORE and also DETERMINED TO KICK MY DRUG HABIT ALL ON MY OWN (you know, except for the help of all those people around me who inexplicably love me at first sight and will do anything to help me because they can sense my INNER NOBILITY). Oh, and look what a big strong tough brave chivalrous man I am for saving a woman who is, well, not as fucked up as me (because face it, nobody in the history of the world has EVER BEEN as fucked up as me), but who is delicate and pretty and totally incapable of HANDLING HER SHIT like I am, because I am MADE OF STEEL.
Yeah, I really hated this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
addicts exaggerate the truth -- who knew??? first off, it's a great read with a unique style. frey makes a sort of rhythm with his sentence structure throughout the entire story, pulling and pushing the reader along at a pace that he (frey) determines, and that is an amazing accomplishment in itself. it is also a wonderful tool for bringing the reader into a world that he/she may have absolutely no idea about. i've been to rehab -- a few, actually, over the course of a year -- and it is very much like going on a roller coaster without a seat belt when you are least prepared physically/mentally for even the slow car ride there. secondly, it would blow a lot of minds to do some research on how ineffective AA really is. for many, AA will actually make matters worse. i'm not anti-12-step programs, ((if it works, great!)) but there are a lot of other options that people are not made aware of that could save a life or two. third, with regards to the climactic scene where frey confronts the demon-whiskey, whether it actually happened or not is pretty irrelevant; he paints a great picture of how a person feels once he/she is on the other side of the problem/disorder/disease/whatever. looking at a manifestation of the very thing that caused so much damage and pain... the frustration of realizing that it could do it again if one were to let down one's guard for even a second... even the somewhat sick and egotistical pleasure one gets from taunting the old bully that used to beat you up daily and take your lunch money... powerful and poignant. what amazes me more than anything, believe it or not, is frey's honesty. he doesn't do what so many addiction memoirs do, which is romanticise a very self-degrading affliction. he gives it enough of a "hook" here and there to keep the reader's attention, and he drifts in and out of the plot's reality and his subconscious, ((which is also very true to the actual experience,)) but ultimately, he gives a very genuine account of something that (thank God) most people will never have to go through. and when it comes to the scene at the dentist, well, it wouldn't shock me one way or the other concerning his "truthiness." what i will say is that i can't out right dismiss the possibility when it comes to a man who has the courage to put such a personal and difficult experience out there for the entire world. you can question the man's honesty, but not the size of his b*lls.
I really wish I'd gotten my shit together to review this before all of the news about how much of it might be fiction started swirling around. But since I didn't, I feel some responsibility to talk about that, as well as about the book itself. Oh well.
The drama, in case you live under a rock, is that the truth of a number of the claims Frey makes in this book, a memoir, is being contested. You can take a look at this article if you'd like more information. My thoughts are that Frey probably did exaggerate or simply make up some of the things he writes in A Million Little Pieces. Mostly, though, I don't care. My not caring is twofold. First, this is a great book, and it would be a great book if it were fiction, so why should it matter how much of it actually happened? Secondly, I think it's naive to expect a memoir to be 100% factual (if 100% factual even exists). People write with an agenda, people even remember with an agenda, and that's always going to come across, to some extent. That being said, if it's true that Frey exaggerated or invented a lot of what is in this book, then a disclaimer to that effect should have been printed at the front of the book. Tim O'Brien, one of my favorite writers of all time, wrote several partially-factual/partially-fiction works dealing with Vietnam. His response to critics of his not being 100% accurate was that he was writing the truth about what being there felt like, about what being there was, and sometimes the actual facts fit into that and sometimes they don't. I can accept that, and I even admire the perspective. But it's not fair to the reader not to lay it out at the beginning if that is what you are doing. O'Brien does lay it out, and Frey probably should have.
That all being said, I thought this was a very high quality book. The plot is, in many ways, predictable. Frey is a young, well-off, white alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal. The book is the story of his six-week "last chance" rehab, during which time he comes off his addictions and begins his path of sobriety. Nothing revolutionary there. However, Frey's writing is top notch, which makes the story interesting to read, and his take on addiction and recovery is much less that you find in most people who write about it and much more like that I've found in the real life addicts I know. Frey has little respect for AA or 12 stepping in general, and he insists throughout the book on taking responsibility for his own actions and for his addictions. He even finds fault with the untouchable tenant that addiction is a disease. To me, at least, these things are interesting. And whether Frey the human being ever really held them or to what extent matters very little to me. What I'm interested in is what Frey the writer has to say about them.
I like this book because it was interesting to read, it didn't remind me of every other addiction book I've ever read, and it made me think. None of those things require a single word of it to have been true. So I recommend you read it. However, if there is a sharp and important delineation in your mind between fiction and memoir, you'd probably better read this one as fiction.
What a (million little) piece(s) of crap! By the time I finished this book I was craving a few stiff drinks, desperately tearing up the house looking for a syringe and spoon. If I had only thrown this one in the Goodwill bin sooner! I have no clue why anyone would think this was worthwhile reading material. I found it to be vapid, self-aggrandizing bullshit from start to finish.
I read this book before the whole Oprah controversy/confrontation, so that really had no impact upon my lowly opinion. This book was so badly written and sophomoric, I never had an inkling of empathy for any of the characters, particularly the author himself. So why am I wasting my time writing this review? Just in hopes that you will decide not to read this shite! Thank you for just saying no to "A Million Little Pieces" - you would have a much better time reading the operating manual for your toaster oven while smoking a rock.
Let me start by saying that the primary reason I decided to read this book now was that I got it for free. Not that I wasn't curious; I've got a definite weakness for angst and drugs and devastation and redemption. I mean, shit like this is ludicrously popular because it like twangs something in us, right? It accesses some kind of emotional core or whatever, some place in us that has struggled too, that wants to see suffering end and the sun shimmer out from behind the clouds and a reward come to those who have kicked and screamed and fought to earn it. Right? Anyway: so there, I admit it, I've always assumed I would probably read this book eventually, and would probably even like it.
Before I get any further, though, I'd like to do a bit of ranting about the whole sordid, shitty scandal. First of all: jesus fuck, how stupid was all that?? I was working at Random House when it was going down; I remember that any of us who wanted to could go to the conference rooms where they were showing the Oprah episode where Nan Talese went on the show so the two of them could get all indignant and talk about how James Frey betrayed them and the American people and bunnies and apple pie. I stayed at my desk, because it was too stupid to possibly think about. It's a memoir, people, and memoirs are fucking subjective. Furthermore, it's a memoir of the first few weeks of convalescence after ten years of nightly blackouts due to extreme consumption of insane amounts of drugs and alcohol. Is it really that surprising that Frey forgot or fucked up some details? And even furthermore, it's a story, it's a book, people, and Frey had the sense to be a writer, to lay a narrative arc over things, to make beginning-middle-end sections, to insert snappy dialogue where it was probably a lot less snappy, to make people maybe just a little bit smarter and more interesting than maybe they really were. This is not wrong. The reason why books aren't explicitly true to life is because life is boring sometimes, and when you write a book or a movie or a comedy act, you can gloss over the inconsequential things and capitalize on the interesting bits.
It was ludicrous how Random House fell all over themselves to work both sides of the issue ("You guys think he's still relevant and important? Oh, then we of course stand by our authors. But wait, you guys over there think he's a fuckup and a liar? Well we were lied to too! Poor us! Please don't stop buying our books!"). Puke and puke. I also have a lot of anger about Oprah (much of which well-meaning friends have tried to get me to get over, but no fucking thank you), and I think she too was just exclusively concerned with protecting her brand and her market share, and that everybody scapegoated Frey in an unforgivable way. But then, of course, there's this: scandals sell some fucking books. Sure, Frey was humiliated on TV and throughout the media, but that motherfucker also made a shit-ton of money. Random House and Oprah kind of had to play both sides of the issue, because both sides were going to buy, buy, buy. Remember that other Oprah mini-scandal with Jonathan Franzen, how she put him on her book club and he said no thanks? Well, let me be clear: the only Oprah books I've ever read, and probably ever will read, are Franzen's and Frey's. Oprah is so powerful that even the people who hate her make her money and are probably good for her overall. That's fucking scary.
Anyway, enough of that; on to the book itself. Will anyone be surprised by this point to hear that I didn't hate it? Well, I didn't. In fact, I liked it a good deal. There were passages where I was pretty damn riveted, honestly, when I couldn't wait until my next cigarette break so I could read some more. Like I said, it's tough to beat the kind of suffering and struggle and survival that's on display here. I've had friends in NA and AA, and many more who maybe should have been; I'm a good audience for this kind of thing. Moreover, though (smoking aside) I've never been an addict myself, I quietly agree with a lot of Frey's ideas (as presented here, that is) about the futility of the Twelve Steps, and how especially the "higher power" bit, along with things like "genetically predisposed" and "childhood abuse" and such like, could be looked at as just tidy ways of disavowing responsibility for one's own mistakes. I mean, for fuck's sake, I smoke a lot of cigarettes, and though yes, I do think I have a bit of an addictive personality, and sure, maybe because my parents didn't take away my bottle early enough I have an oral fixation, and yup, many of my relatives were heavy smokers, but still: every single time I light a cigarette, I am making a decision to do so. Every. Single. Time. I could very certainly not do it, and the times I've quit I've done just that. I am of course in no way saying that heroin is easy to kick, or that physical addiction is as simple to overcome as not striking that match. I am saying, though, that I agree with a lot of the things Frey says here. That's all.
And look: there's no doubt that Frey has crafted himself (or: his "self") into a serious bad-boy hero in this book. I'm sure that he is not nearly as smart and clever and recalcitrant and charismatic and nails-tough as he paints himself to be herein. But see above, okay? It's a fucking memoir. Does anyone for one second believe that any memoirist can remember conversations, word for word, from years ago? Of course not. You remember the general idea, maybe a phrase here or there, and you recreate. Recreate. A memoir is a creative process just like fiction is. Sure, there were times during this book when I rolled my eyes and thought "well isn't that tidy," or "I'm really sure he said that," but that's fine. I am a thinking human being, and I am going to bring my own thoughts and feelings and opinions to what I read, and I am going to dole out my respect and judgement accordingly.
The bottom line, for me, goes back to something I always say about memoirs. One of the quotes on my favorite memoir ever, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, says something like "finally, a person whose life is deserving of a memoir has the skills to write one." Whether Frey really had a double root canal with no anesthetic, whether he commanded the adulation and respect of grizzled mobsters in rehab, whether he puked for ten days straight and cursed out all the therapists and is a perfect fighter and is actually afraid of nothing — that is all irrelevant, or at least secondary. What matters is that Frey has not only gone through some major major shit and lived to tell about it, he is capable of telling about it in a way that is generally compelling and often fascinating. Sure, he made a lot of really weird style choices (like random capitalizations and no indented paragraphs), which I found stupid and distracting. Sure, his story is often overdramatized and too pat. Sure, he paints himself as a pitch-perfect brilliant bad-boy-rebel anti-hero. But fuck. This is still a pretty great book, and I'm really glad I read it.
I thought about putting on my size 10 wellies for this one.
Well, isn't this so called 'memoir' not just littered with bullshit?
Not, I suppose, that it really mattered. As whether a memoir, fictional memoir, or novel, it just wasn't very good. The writing isn't anything special for one thing, and it's certainly in need of a good editor. The only people I felt any emotion and pity for in the end was James's anguished parents—who he at least acknowledges at the back of the book with a big 'thank you' for their loving support.
But hey, if like your books to be repetitive, then you've come to the right place; especially when it comes to things like this -
'I get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. I shower and shave and I brush my teeth. I get dressed and I leave the room. I get a cup of coffee and I sit down at a table and I drink the coffee'
I mean, come on!, what else can one do with a cup a coffee besides drink it?
Dance with it? Play noughts and crosses with it ? Ask it for a light?
I know rehab is all about routine, and taking small steps at a time, and it's anything but a walk in the park, but I just found it very very difficult to get behind this guy and hope it all worked out for him. What is there to believe and what not to believe? It really feels like a kick in the guts to all those out there going through hell in rehab. Then there are the supposed crimes he was wanted for in three different states, and those he met and mixed with. Why not just be sincerely honest about it son?
Even when he found love in the form of another crack addict called Lily I struggled to get on board.
(Normally I love the whole idea of finding love in the most unexpected of places)
There are two writers in Brett Easton Ellis and Denis Johnson who I would have been far more interested in when it comes to writing about drug addiction.
The message that hard drugs basically fuck you up—period, resonated with me.
In his much-debated book, Frey offers the reader a significant glimpse into his life as an addict and the time he spent in a treatment centre addressing these demons. Opening in dramatic fashion, the reader is immediately treated to Frey circling the drain as he lands in Chicago and is shipped off to an unnamed facility in Minnesota. His arrival garners much confusion and pushback, as Frey expresses feeling that he did not belong or fit in amongst others who are at various stages of addiction. The reader discovers, through Frey's own narrative, how withdrawn he feels about the process and how, while being frank about the depths to which his addiction overtook his life, he does not feel that a counselling and Twelve Step approach will reunite the million pieces into which his life has shattered over the thirteen years since addiction formally reared its ugly head. Bridging acquaintances with numerous others at the facility, Frey is able to compare his life against those of others who have also had to battle addiction. With first-hand accounts of withdrawal symptoms, despair, and refusing to engage in therapeutic intervention, Frey seems well on his way to burning the money spent on his time in treatment. It is only when his parents arrive for Family Counselling, an intense program whereby the addict and those closest to him tear off all the scabs related to the addiction, that Frey begins to synthesise the pain and devastation that his life has become. The reader is able to see the insights that Frey offers, as well as the reactions of his parents, coupled with a better understanding of the addiction's nexus. These insightful sections begin the first steps in the long road to recovery and Frey's ability to find some semblance of order in his shattered life. However, a fellow addict, Lilly, plays a key role in his life at this point in time and their connection proves an addiction in and of itself, as well as contravening the Cardinal Rule of the facility. A wonderful story that pulls no punches about the horrendous nature of addiction, the struggles an addict faces in coming to the realisation of their powerlessness, and the crux of the recovery process. Told in as raw a format as many readers will have encountered, Frey presents the reader with much food for thought as they explore this poignant narrative.
While much has been made of the validity of the text, those who choose to sit on their pedestals and lob blame or scorn do nothing for the message found within its pages. Frey tells an extremely naked story about the addict and the struggle to climb out of the hole in which they dig themselves. Be it drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or other vices, Frey's narrative can touch the heart of the attentive and non-judgmental reader. As Frey says in his own words, “There is no excitement, no glamour, no fun. There are no good times, there is no joy, there is no happiness. There is no future and no escape. There is only an obsession. An all-encompassing, fully enveloping, completely overwhelming obsession.” As soon as the reader can come to terms with this and sees the message at the root of the story, that of the horrors of addiction, there is a chance to synthesise all that is told in this story. Passing judgment or trying to vilify the author because of factual irregularities serves only to demonstrate how said critic misses the point of this book and lacks of ability to comprehend the deeper message. Addiction is horrid, it is a struggle each and every day. We can sit in our ivory towers and bemoan those who drink or smoke crack, but that will not solve the problem, it only seeks to push it under the rug. While the early chapters were hard for me to digest, not only for their content but also the jagged nature of the writing style, I grew to accept that Frey sought to present the reader with the perspective of the addict, as though it were a written at the time of the events. Choppy, repetitive, and even nonsensical at times, Frey portrays the struggles that the addict must face while also presenting a lifestyle that, for some readers, is entirely foreign. Add to that, the text is free from any quotation marks, allowing him to recollect things as he did, rather than shackling himself into anything binding. Frey tries to shine light on it and offer a degree of compassion for those who struggle by personalising the suffering. For that, he is owed a debt of gratitude.
Thank you, Rae Eddy, for opening my eyes to this book and to the inner struggles with which I could relate on many levels. You have touched my life in ways that I cannot clearly elucidate, but I think you know precisely what I mean, even without the written word.
Kudos, Mr. Frey for putting forth this frank account of the struggles an addict faces. Some may be too wrapped up in their own soap box speeches as they dole out praise and the public rushes to guzzle their 'Kool-Aid'. You steer clear of this and the drama of talk-show blather.
The first part of this book is well done. Frey does describe what it is like to be an addict well. I'm one & I know. After that, it was pure fiction - very dangerous fiction for an addict.
From his description, I believe he went to the same treatment center as I did. They would never allow him to run his own program or pull half the crap he said he did. His best thinking & will power got him to treatment. It isn't logical nor part of any reputable treatment plan, to allow the addict to cure himself. If it was, none of us would ever be in a treatment center in the first place. I went there because it was that or death.
My mother read the book & said it gave her an insight into my disease she had never had before. Kudos for that. Seriously, I am most thankful & it's the only reason this didn't get a single star. She believed the whole book - I knew most of it was fiction way before Oprah finally got around to saying it.
Thumbs down to Oprah on this one - she had to know it too, from her medical expert who supposedly told her well before air time. As for Mr. Frey, he got his moment of fame, probably a lot of money & hopefully he really isn't an addict or it will likely kill him.
There are better ways for a loved one to know what it is like to be an addict. If that person won't go to AA, NA or Alanon - if you think this is the only way for them to learn - by all means give them the book. Just rip the last half to 2/3 of it out first.
A Million Little Pieces, James Frey A Million Little Pieces, tells the story of a 23-year-old alcoholic and abuser of other drugs and how he copes with rehabilitation in a twelve steps-oriented treatment center. While initially promoted as a memoir, it was later discovered that many of the events described in the book never happened. The book follows Frey through the painful experiences that lead up to his eventual release from the center, including his participation in the clinic's family program with his parents, despite his strong desire not to. Throughout the novel, Frey speaks of the "Fury" he is fighting, which he sees as the cause of his desire to drink alcohol and use other drugs. The "Fury" could be seen as the antagonist of the novel, because he believes that he will not be able to recover until he learns to ignore it or "kill it". Frey meets many interesting people in the clinic, with whom he forms relationships and who play an important role in his life both during and after his time in the clinic.
عنوانها: هزاران هزار ذره؛ یک میلیون تکه کوچک؛ یک میلیون ذره کوچک؛ رقص خود خواسته با شیطان؛ نویسنده: جیمز فری (فرای)؛ ناریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیستم ماه اکتبر سال 2017 میلادی عنوان: هزاران هزار ذره؛ نویسنده: جیمز فری؛ مترجم: سهیل سمی؛ تهران : علم ، 1385؛ در 667 ص؛ شابک: 9644056779؛ موضوع: معتادان - ایالات متحده - مینهسوتا - سرگذشتنامه - سده 21 م عنوان: یک میلیون تکه کوچک؛ نویسنده: جیمز فرای؛ برگردان: صدیقه ابراهیمی (فخار)؛ تهران، البرز، 1385؛ در 694 ص؛ شابک: ایکس - 964442509؛ عنوان: یک میلیون ذره کوچک؛ نویسنده: جیمز فرای؛ برگردان: طناز شیرزاد؛ تهران: سالی، 1386؛ در 714 ص؛ شابک: 9789647191418؛ عنوان: رقص خود خواسته با شیطان؛ نویسنده: جیمز فری؛ مترجم: حسینعلی مقیمی؛ تهران: دایره، 1387؛ در 571 ص؛ شابک: 9789646839878؛
داستان زندگی معتادی بیست و سه ساله است، که ده سال به الکل، و سه سال به مواد مخدر، اعتیاد دارد. هدف نویسنده از نگارش کتاب نشان دادن اراده ی شگفت آور انسان است. ماجرای کتاب در هواپیما آغاز میشود. صدای موتور هواپیما «جیمز فری» را گیج میکند. او نمیداند عازم کجاست. حتی دو هفته ی گذشته را به یاد نمیآورد. گویی دچار فراموشی شده است. پس از فرود هواپیما، به یک مرکز بازپروری برده میشود، به او میگویند: «اعتیادت را ترک کن یا قبل از رسیدن به سن بیست و چهارسالگی خواهی مرد». یادمانهای شش هفته اقامت در مرکز بازپروری، هسته ی اصلی داستان را تشکیل میهد. و ...؛ روزنامه فرانسوی لیبراسیون گفتگویی را با نویسنده انجام داده است نخستین رمان شما با عنوان «هزاران هزار قطعه» تحت عنوان یک رمان بیوگرافی و خاطرات منتشر شد اما پس از انتشار مشخص شد که خیلی از رویدادهای آن در زندگی واقعی رخ نداده و ساختگی بوده که همین هم جنجال بسیاری ایجاد کرد و اتهاماتی نیز بر شما وارد شد. تاثیر این اتفاقها روی شما چه بود؟ من در بیست سالگی دلم میخواست پرجنجالترین نویسنده معاصر شوم و این اتفاق هم افتاد. افسوس آنچه را که در گذشته انجام داده ام نمیخورم، و برایم مهم نیست. چیزی که مهم است کیفیت کتاب است و لذتی که خواننده از آن برده. اگر لازم باشد دوباره همان کار را خواهم کرد. در زندگی باید در رویاپردازی بیپروا و جسور بود و از هیچ چیز نهراسید. بیشتر افسوس چیزهایی را میخورم که در زندگی انجامشان ندادهام و شکست هم تاثیری روی من نمیگذارد.؛ برای نوشتن به چه چیزی نیاز دارید؟ در واقع خودم هم نمیدانم که چطور مینویسم. مینشینم به موسیقی پانک راک و یا راک گوش میدهدم و منتظر میشوم تا کلمات خودشان بیایند. کتاب ابتدا در قلب و در وجودم شکل میگیرد و وظیفه ی من به عنوان یک نویسنده این است که با توان هرچه بیشتر صورتی بیرونی به آن ببخشم.؛ از کجا به این یقین رسیدید که میخواهید نویسنده شوید؟ نوشتن را به صورت آکادمیک و در مدرسه فرا نگرفتم. از روزی که کتاب «مدار راس السرطان» هنری میلر را خواندم فکر نویسنده شدن دیگر رهایم نکرد و به خودم میگفتم که مانه، آرتور رمبو و بودلر هم مانند من یک انسان بودند؛ پس چرا من نتوانم.؛ در جایی گفته بودید که افسردگی باعث شد آخرین رمانتان را با عنوان «کاترینا» بنویسید. آیا افسردگی بخشی از کار شماست؟ من فکر میکنم بیشتر نویسندگان از مقداری از افسردگی رنج میبرند. ما واقعا تنها هستیم و کتابهایمان را در ذهن خود داریم. این هم خیلی عالی و هم خیلی ترسناک و نگران کننده است. زیرا عدم قطعیتها و تردیدهای بسیاری وجود دارد. حجم عظیمی از اندوه در من است و این اندوه را دوست میدارم.؛ به انتقادها حساس هستید؟ من برای رضایت منتقدان نمینویسم. زندگی و حیات یک کتاب به نظر منتقدان بستگی ندارد؛ بلکه به میزان رضایت و لذتی که خوانندگان از آن میبرند وابسته است. شخصا برایم مهم نیست اگر از کتابم متنفر باشند. امروز همه میترسند که توسط مطبوعات و شبکه های اجتماعی ترور شوند. من وقتی کتابی مینویسم میخواهم یا آن را خیلی دوست دشته باشند یا از آن منتفر باشند و حد وسطی را نمیخواهم. مشکل اینجاست که اکثر نویسندگان امروزی از ریسک کردن میترسند. به عنوان مثال از میان نویسندگان فرانسوی میشل ولبک را دوست دارم و تحسینش میکنم. او بیش از هر فردی اهل خطر کردن است. او درست مثل خود من است. از این لحاظ که آینه ای مقابل جهان گرفته. این به این معنا نیست که هر چه را مینویسد دوست میدارم؛ نه به استقبال خطر رفتنش را تحسین میکنم.؛ موضوع کتاب جدیدتان درباره عشق است و چرا این موضوع را انتخاب کردید؟ چه چیزی قادر است انسان را سریعتر از عشق خوشحال کند و اینکه آیا چیزی زیباتر از زیبایی و رنج عشق وجود دارد. شخصا شیفته ی زیبایی و عشق هستم. حتی اگر آن عشق باعث رنج و اندوه در فرد عاشق بشود. تنها چیزی که در زندگی اهمیت دارد تجربه کردن است؛ حتی اگر آن تجربه موجب رنج و آزارت شود.؛ نسخه سینمایی «هزاران هزار قطعه» قرار است به زودی اکران شود؟ بله توسط سم تیلور- جانسون و امسال در امریکا به اکران عمومی درخواهد آمد و تاکنون هم ملانی لوران، کارگردان فرانسوی برای اقتباس سینمایی از رمان «کاترینا» اعلام آمادگی کرده است.؛ پروژه بعدی شما چیست؟ میخواهم یک کتاب درباره دنیای کاملا دیوانه واری که در آن زندگی میکنیم بنویسم؛ به ویژه اتفاقهایی که در امریکا با روی کار آمدن ترامپ افتاد و درباره ی نابودی ثروت، مهاجرت، شبکه های اجتماعی و دروغ های خبری، و فکر میکنم کافی باشد. امروزه دیگر نمیتوان یک گفتگوی سالم و نرمال با کسی داشت. تندروها افسار جامعه را در دست گرفته اند و اگر با آنها موافقت نکنی تو را خواهند شکست. ا. شربیانی
I read "A Million Little Pieces" before the entire scandal broke out surrounding the truthfulness of the "memoir". Even before obtaining the knowledge that the book was not 100% truthful, I found it to be an overdramatized and unrealistic account of what real life drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs are like. In many scenes in the book I felt as though Frey was self aggrandizing and in some parts even glorifying the experience of being a drug addict. He portrayed drug addicts as rough and rugged, people that have been around the block more than once. Although there is definitely some truth to this, the other side of it is that Rehab is an incredibly sad place to visit. It is filled with lost souls who due to their brain chemistry, life experiences and poor luck have no other choice or options but to admit themselves (People rarely volunteer rehab, it usually takes a severe "rock bottom" to get them there.) I feel as though Frey's book would have been a lot more powerful had he excluded the sensationalism that seemed to flood the book, much of this represented in his wriitng style (one word sentences for dramatic effect.) After the scandal was revealed and Frey's book was found to be less than non-fiction, my immediate reaction was sadness. I view this to mean that Frey has truly not recovered from his addiction, as step four in the 12 -step- program for recovering addicts is to have "made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." This book is a reflection that Frey obviously still has some work to do. (Not that all of us don't..we just didn't write a book.) To end on a positive note, I will say that "A Million Little Pieces" did give some people a push to seek treatment for their addictions and anything that is able to motivate someone is valuable, no matter the reason behind it.
New thoughts: I have been alerted by another good-reader that Frey refused to follow the 12 steps while he was in rehab (I remember this now..it has been a while since I read the book.) If the memoir was a true story, I would send an emphatic bravo over to Frey and encourage him to design his own program.. However this is not the case and I can only view this as Frey's false promise to other addicts that something other than A.A and the 12 step program will "cure" them of their demons. Sadly, thus far, for the majority of people, the 12 step program is the only successful way to long term recovery and Frey's invalidation of this process does nothing but direct people away from this track.
I was so captivated by this book. For the first 100 pages or so, the narrator has his front four teeth knocked out and I kept having the sensation of no front teeth either! I kept attempting to run my tounge along my barren gums and was "surprised" to find my teeth there instead. It was a completely strange experience, but I mention it just to illustrate how this book immediately transported me to another time and place. Although there were parts where I felt he was too repetitive (no more vomiting details, please!), overall the effect was phenomenal.
I knew about the controversy over the difference between 'memoir' versus 'fiction-based-on-reality' that James Frey sparked with this book, and it was actually part of the reason that I was intrigued enough to buy it and read it myself. I read his forward first (along with a note from the publisher, both added to new editions to respond to the controversy) and was in agreement with him. A memoir is allowed to be somewhat subjective as it is a person's personal recounting of their life and is open to their interpretations and potentially faulty memory. What counts is the sum total of the story.
As I said before, I was completely taken by the book while reading it. Knowing that he "embellished a little bit here and a little bit there" I was frequently curious if it was this part that he altered, or was it this experience that he enhanced, or what details about this person were changed, or did this episode really happen exactly like this? But as I was under the impression that it was only slightly tweaked and just minor details rearranged, it didn't affect my love of the book. I was just smitten.
So then when I breathlessly finished the book and took to the internet to do a little research, I was so disappointed to learn that it was much more than minor details he changed. And I surprised myself by how much it upset me. I had thought that Oprah was over-reacting and being righteous and a stickler for inconsequential academic rules. But now I understand. I was willing to allow a bit of creative freedom on Frey's part, but when it seemed that there was more fabrication than truth, I felt lied to and conned to a certain extent.
But that doesn't change the fact that it was a spectacular read. Labeling it fiction or non-fiction doesn't make the story any less compelling.
Based on true life, this is a story about the author's experiences of addiction and then recovery in rehab.
First of all it was marketed as a memoir, secondly, following a debacle with Oprah Winfrey, the author confessed that it was largely altered and padded out to make him look more macho. The levels of machismo described were ridiculous and irritating....eg he talks about having root canal treatment at the dentist without any anaesthetic. Just powering on through it as only a real butch toughie can do. Throughout the book he is strong, silent and tough - handling horrible experiences of detoxing and physical side-effects, with great stoicism. To me it appeared that he was boasting about his manliness, and as I already said, I found it irritating. He also describes a love affair he had in rehab, (intense and smouldering, as befits a real hunk of man.) - but research has shown it was unlikely that this woman ever existed.
The one point of interest for me was that the rehab where he went was supposed to be the best in America, and it kept pushing, pushing, pushing him to do the 12 Step Alcoholic Anonymous programme. He was told flatly that he would fail unless he did the twelve steps, plus there were no alternative programmes on offer. As it was he dug his heels in and totally refused to take part in AA exercises. He attended compulsory lectures, but that was it. He just used the general ambiance of rehab, and the support of staff and fellow inmates, in order to recover. But recover he did.... That much is true.
So, this book started out as a memoir, but is now known to be generously fleshed out with fiction.
I thought it was gripping when I read it, but when I learnt it wasn't a straight autobiography I felt cheated. I now wish I hadn't bothered to read it. I wanted to learn about a real experience, not a highly glossed up version of what happened.
Being a recovering drunk myself, I found Frey's book to be thoroughly annoying. People in addiction tend to be self-absorbed people and this is one of the things we're trying to learn not to be when we stop drinking/using. Frey portrays a character who stops using but doesn't really change. He becomes more annoying and self-absorbed with his cliched eastern religious study and trip to the dentist without pain med's which I found totally unbelievable and unhealthy. The good thing about the book was his portrayal of life for a substance abuser. What I really got out of it was how highly self-absorbed drunks and drug addicts are even when we write crappy books about it.
Original Review - 2007 edited slightly (mostly for grammar) in 2011.
I got into a discussion about this book yesterday with some fellow goodreads friends and thought I should add my two cents here. I must start, as is customary with this one, by saying I read the book after it was picked to be in Oprah's book club, but before the scandal occurred.
I enjoyed the book. I attempted to rate it based on the way I felt upon completing it, and without the perspective I now have which is likely affected by the scandal.
When I finished the book, I was exhausted and emotionally drained. This was one of the first recovery books I read. I found the author's writing style to be unique, brisk, and concise in ways I had not previously experienced. Much of this had to do with the nature of the sentences, and paragraphs, and what the pages looked like.
I realize in retrospect that much of the book was made up, but it did seem to be a novel/story that helped other addicts, which leads me to believe the fictionalized events were not necessarily unique and outlandish. I believe one of the reasons I (or the global "we") read books or listen to music is because those people that work/create in those mediums are able to put to words feelings and emotions that "we" all feel, but sometimes can not articulate. The author of A Million Little Pieces made me feel something, and, that, is why I gave it 4 stars.
[This review is excerpted from a essay I wrote for my blog in 2005]
I started reading A Million Little Pieces in the spring of 2003, shortly before its April release. Our friendly neighborhood Random House rep knew I was a shameless trauma junkie, and when she slid the reviewer's copy across the breakroom table I snapped it up.
It was immediately clear to me that this was not a factual book. This is not to say that I thought it was untrue — far from it — but merely that it did not strike me from the outset as a narrative concerned with facts. Were I writing a review of the book I would say that it is "a deeply impressionistic narrative told (for deliberate artistic effect) in a well-contrived matter-of-fact style and voice. The narrative persona often seems to be saying nothing much beyond 'this happened, then this happened, then this happened....' But this flatline voice becomes very quickly an eloquent mode of relating emotions and inner states, all of them tormented and damaged." But I don't write book reviews. The books works, in the opinion of this reader, and it made me a big fan.
This past July I met James Frey. He struck me and others I was with as a surprisingly arrogant individual, given how shy he seemed at the same time. His frank admission of the literary aspirations that led him to write A Million Little Pieces was impressive in its near-megalomaniacal ambition. He stated that he wrote A Million Little Pieces in the style he did as part of a carefully-conceived plan to win a lasting place among literary greats like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Joyce. Nothing like aiming high for yourself.
And now it is revealed: he made it up. Not the whole thing, but pretty big details that, if disqualified, leave us with a pretty tame story bereft of much of tension and narrative drive that fills the book as published. His true story was not, apparently, nearly so thrilling as the narrator in the book would have us believe. Which revelation leads to an outraged public and an even more outraged community of non-fiction writers, who seem to feel that Mr. Frey has irreparably harmed the reputation of the genre and jeopardized their chances at getting their own books published and read by tens of thousands of readers.
What is my opinion of Frey's literary transgression? He now admits that he did indeed lie to us, his readers. He appears to have gone beyond the 'acceptable' bounds of embellishment and given us in his arrogance a tale of the tub, and played us all for suckers. (Unless, of course he is lying about having lied...) Does that make him a charlatan, his literary achievement a fraud? Perhaps. It is certainly disappointing. Yet it does not utterly discredit him for me. When I was reading the book, it was clear to me that this was not a narrative of events so much as the impression of an experience. From an external point of view I knew it was too amazing to be true, yet between the covers of the book, it was true, and that is the only real criterion I insist be met in my reading. In the case of A Million Little Pieces, I was satisfied.
But enough about Mr. Frey. I have bigger fisher to fry now. (Don't even think that there was a pun there.) In all the fracas this past month a troubling theme has been constant. Those who are upset over this incident are operating on an expectation that is to my mind completely unrealistic: the expectation of objective truth in memoir. In fact, in most of the punditry on this, it strikes me that there is a widespread application of journalistic expectations being imposed (inappropriately) to a genre where they do not apply.
Journalists report to us facts, at least that is the assumption we still operate under for the most part. When that 'contract' is breached, as it has been in a handful of highly-publicized cases in recent years, the public is rightly outraged. We read the newspapers and newsweeklies with an expectation of a high level of concrete factual reporting, backed up by carefully-researched and scrupulously-verified evidence and testimony. We expect journalistic integrity. Such are the parameters of the journalistic genre, and its practitioners are painfully aware that they must work within them, or reap the whirlwind.
Does the same apply for the writer of a personal memoir? I do not believe it does, nor that it should. The memoirist is not (typically) a journalist. Nor is he or she under obligation to provide the public with timely information of a factual nature. Instead, he or she is voluntarily sharing, with widely-varying degrees of candor, their personal lived experience, often after a passage of some years from the events described. In some cases the memoirist may employ journalistic techniques to verify their recollections against other sources, in others they might not. But the primary source for the memoir is — like the word says — the memory of the author, the one who remembers. He or she is attempting an 'eyewitness' account of their own lived experience, and such an undertaking, based on individual memory, is simply not going to result in a 'true' story in the sense that the public seems to suddenly demand.
As a reader, I do not turn to memoir seeking objective truth. I am going out on a shaky ideological limb here, but I do not see objective truth as possible in the relation — written or verbal — of personal lived experience. The memory of lived experience is distorted through so many psychological lenses under the tamest of circumstances that it is hardly to be trusted; and memoir as a genre often deals with circumstances that are far from tame. Indeed, in cases of extreme and traumatic experience, it is often only in the distortion of the memory that any narrative is able to emerge, and from that distortion we have received many great and powerful works, particularly those emerging from the devastating events that filled far too much of the twentieth century.
This is not to say there cannot be truth in memoir; there usually is, sometimes a great deal of it. But I believe it misguided to attempt to certify any memoir as objectively true, or to try to hold such work to the same standards that works of journalism or historical research are held to. The distinction may seem pedantic, but I believe it to be an important one. To say something is objectively true makes a claim of empiricism that individual memory can never, never support. And further, I fiercely hold that we as readers have absolutely no right to demand such empiricism from memoirists.
Is this to say that all memoirs are lies, their authors liars? No! Am I proposing that there is a different standard of truth for memoirists. Yes. I do not need every, or any, detail of his ordeal to be empirically verified, or verifiable. I don't want testimonials from witnesses protesting the veracity of the text (a la The Book of Mormon), nor do I want a disclaimer pointing out which bits "really happened" and which bits are just made up. I just want to feel the truth in the narrative. I did so when I read Frey's book. If the reading public gets irredeemably hung up on holding memoirists to unreasonable standards of factuality, the result will inevitably be an impoverished output of memoirs. Memory is what it is, and a person shouldn't have to research their own life. If people can't read a memoir with a grain of salt, then why are they reading a memoir to begin with? Did anyone read Art Spiegelman's Maus and come away believing that Jews had the heads of rodents? I should hope not. Again, I am not trying to defend Frey's choices; I am trying to defend a beautiful genre from a public that seems to have forgotten what it is reasonable for them to expect.
There is a reason that this novel is my favorite novel. I read this at such a young age, and I am quite sure that I can blame it for the fact that I've never done drugs or drank in my 21 years of being alive. This book is so real and so detailed and specific and James' life is so horrible that it's nothing I would ever want for myself. I know there's a lot of controversy about whether this is a fiction or a non fiction book and I say: who cares? Whether he really lived it or exaggerated most of it, it's a good book. It's detailed and interesting and compelling and even as a fiction book nothing changes it. Maybe James Frey did not go through everything in this novel, but someone somewhere out there is and that makes the book non fiction.
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey is that book you read tell friends about then debate if it's real or not and everyone of you are going to have a different opinion. It starts with a man of 23 on a plane on his way to rehab to start the fight with his horrendous demons (drink and drug and LOTS of them) and his determination to fight them. I'm along the lines of half and half,I found it to be a emotionally charged read with certain circumstances that were very very graphic also shocking ( oh the details of throwing up 🤢 and the dentist two of my pet hates) but if we've never had this addiction fight who knows if it's this way 🤷 The last 2 pages of this book is probably the most saddest especially if this is a 100 % true account of his life in a rehabilitation clinic. Would I recommend this?? Yes but I'm not sure it's for everyone 📖
I'm still not quite sure what to think of this book, even with the revelations that chunks of it were totally made up. To me, that's not its main problem. Frey's entire work is hamstrung by a half-baked stream of consciousness style that is more often annoying than compelling. Sure, I can appreciate the style when he's talking about how messed up in the head he is, but the inexplicable punctuation (he seems to capitalize words randomly) and the total avoidance of quotation marks doesn't make it artsy or authentic. It just makes it hard to read.
The book is also hopelessly melodramatic and romantic in the classical sense of the word. True love at first sight saves the day, the author befriends a mob boss with a heart of gold, and there are more addict sob stories than you can swing a crack pipe at. Really, anybody who thought that this "memoir" was 100% true needs to go into gullibility detox themselves. Stuff just doesn't line up like this in real life. Other "Oh you don't really expect me to believe this" points include:
* Getting on a plane covered in blood, in need of immediate medical attention, and unconscious. I can't even get on a plane with an oversized bag. * Being told he can't have Novocaine (a non-addictive, local, and non-mood altering anesthetic) for a double root canal because he's an addict. * The author's not getting thrown out of a substance abuse clinic when he freaks out and trashes a room. * Being told that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory pegged the author's intelligence as high (the MMPI doesn't measure intelligence). * A dramatic rescue of a fellow patient from a crack house, accompanied by clinic staff. * One patient's getting the clinic to allow him to have a private party, complete with catered food, gambling, and the setup of a satellite TV system for the viewing of a Pay-Per-View boxing event.
I could go on, but you get the point. So the book is poorly written, melodramatic, and contrived in several places, not to mention that big parts of it are billed as real when they are obviously not. But still, I kept turning the pages until I came to the end, because it's an interesting story and I wanted to know how it came out. Frey also has some thought-provoking things to say about the nature of abuse and how he was able to deal with it --take personal responsibility for not only your problems, but for solving them. He eschews --even mocks-- the whole 12-step program, calling it the replacement of one addition (drugs) with another (the program). While I think one addiction is obviously better than the other in this example, i can kind of see what he's talking about.
But again, since the legitimacy of his whole tale is questionable, I'm not sure I'd recommend looking to him for anything more than an entertaining story.
It gets 4 stars because the farking font and free association paragraph style KILLED me (otherwise, it's probably 4.25). I never read this when Oprah told me to and I still didn't read it when she told me not to. I picked it up now because it popped up on about 10 different "Kelly, stop avoiding it and just read this YOU IDIOT" lists and I'm glad I did. It was graphic, dark and so absolutely grotesque that I had to put it down a couple of times, but man was it good. If asked my opinion, I believe Frey's story is about 75% pure bullshit. That's alright by me, though. It's still a good read.
You may be thinking you'd like to read this book to see what all the fuss is about. Don't. First of all, even putting the "scandal" aside (and I'm sorry, but if you read this book and didn't know that 90 percent of it or more was absolute bullshit, you really need to do some work on your critical thinking skills), the writing style is embarrassing -- an overwrought, pseudo-macho mess. Second, if you buy this book, you're just inflating Frey's bank account, which is tantamount to rewarding this asshole for appalling behavior. If you want a story about addiction, read Ellen Harris's Like Being Killed instead.
This is the only book to date that I have ever deliberately destroyed after reading -- put it through the shredder at work.
In 2003, James Frey released A Million Little Pieces, a memoir detailing his 10 year battle with drug and alcohol abuse. Praised by critics and championed by Oprah Winfrey, it seemed like Frey had achieved literary success. However, fast forward 2 years and website, "The Smoking Gun", investigated the legitimacy of some of the claims made in Frey's memoir. It turns out that Frey had embellished a few of the major events within his autobiography; mostly to do with jail time and his main love interest. Unfortunately, almost all reviews and press related to this book since that time period dwell heavily on the controversy and less on the story itself and really, it's not very fair.
A lot of people felt slighted or even taken advantage of due to Frey's erroneous claims and of course, people are entitled to their own opinions; one of the reasons I even review things to begin with. I never had this problem, not once. I heard about Frey's writing style; how different and refreshing it is - I was interested. From the get-go, I basically treated the book as fiction. Sure, after it was over, I was a little curious as to what was "real" and what was "heightened" or "imagined" and I did some research. I was a little disappointed but it didn't change the effect the book had on me, I still loved it either way.
I really felt for Frey's situation. Granted, it's all self inflicted and given my stance on drugs and alcohol, I rarely am able to show sympathy for anyone who makes that life choice. With Frey - or at least Frey's version of himself - you can really tell that deep down inside, he's a nice guy and you find yourself pulling for him from the very start. Frey has a way with writing about hostility and anger that you find yourself anxious for what's going to happen next - you keep waiting for people to loose their cool. This kind of writing makes the book hard to put down.
I recently finished the roller-coaster ride that is James Frey's (mostly) autobiographical novel A Million Little Pieces. Surely many of you have seen the controversy over this book which has left Oprah "very disappointed" in author James Frey. She feels taken advantage of by the fact that he seems to have fictionalized several incidents in the book. It is unfortunate that Frey lied (his book would have been just as good with strictly the truth), and I am not condoning lying (am I?), but let's hear Heather's take on it.
This is an astoundingly riveting book which I picked up in an airport bookstore in spite of the Oprah's Book Club sticker on the front. Raw and affecting, Frey's memoir reveals the "self-inflicted apocalypse" that is hard-core drug addiction. It offers unflinching insight into the loathing and despair that comes with it, and the very long, very hard road back from it.
The book opens with Frey waking up on an airplane at age 23 after ten-plus years of intense, regular, hard drug use. "I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut." Frey has no idea where he is or how he got there. When he lands in Chicago, he is met by his parents who take him to a rehab facility. It's either that or he will end up dying from the copious drug use which has almost exhausted his system; mind-staggering amounts of alcohol ("every day, when I wake up, as much as I can"), cocaine ("every day, as much as I can, lately crack, but in every form that exists"), pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP, glue. When he takes these things, it temporarily quiets what he calls "The Fury," the murderous, screaming fury inside of him.
As Frey works through all the crap in his life and tries to salvage his relationships, who he is, and come to terms with what he has done, his writing reverberates and aches with pain and honest intensity, but I appreciate that he doesn't slide into maudlin prose. It is terse. It is to the point. He is dealing with The Question posed to him on the rehab self-assessment quiz:
"My sins are unpardonable. True or false? I stare at the question. My sins are unpardonable. I stare at the question. My sins are unpardonable.
I leave it blank."
I thought that the merits of this book outweigh the fact that there are fictionalized incidents. To me, it's like that whole period in his life was so out of control, so destructive, blurred, surreal, so....falling apart, that the point remains even if the details were not exactly as they occurred. The essence of the book, for me, remains the same in light of the current revelations. It's not as if I went and sobbed in a hot shower, curled in a ball, when I heard that not *every* incident in the book happened exactly like he said. It is a still a recommended read on my shelf.
As usual I am a bit late to the party having never heard of this book until someone recommended it to me at a party in May 2017! When I mentioned it on my book group it appears the entire world had heard about it and read it, which obviously led me to download it immediately and read it.
I am not going to lie and say it’s a easy read or a brilliant book, it’s bloody harrowing and painful and raw. If you have any knowledge of addictions, the 12 step programme or rehab then this book doesn’t just speak to you, it shouts and screams and cries and hurts.
A Million Little Pieces was originally published in 2003 as a factual memoir and in September 2005 was picked up as an Oprah’s Book Club selection which then became the number 1 paperback non-fiction book on Amazon and topped the New York Time Best Seller List for 15 straight weeks. In 2008 after a six-week investigation it was revealed that the book contained fabrications and was not a completely factual memoir.
Whether the controversy surrounding this book is true or false, this is an eye-opening, harrowing and breathtakingly painful book to read which I believe will stay with me for years and years.
I deliberately read this memoir of non-fiction fiction to explore the relationship between truth, Truth, and story. But I didn't learn all that much about my relationship with those things as much as I did find out about other people's entaglements with those issues.
For example, I took this book with me to update my voter registration. Granted, it is a small city, so it was just me in the small office with the registrar, but I don't think being alone was the only reason she looked at what I was holding and felt compelled to say, "You know that's all lies, don't you?" Her voice and tone was more PSA sounding than that. I told her, yes, that that was precisely why I was reading it, and that maybe sometimes lies have more truth than the Truth. Perhaps her voice was one of a disgusted reader who felt cheated by Frey, I don't know. I should have found out, in the interests of my exploration...for science. But I responded only to the first question without asking another and then lickety-split left that place because she didn't look at all happy with my response (after all, I'm new to this neighborhood and she has my address and knows where I'll be coloring in circles on election day).
When my friend called and asked, "What are you reading now (book nerd)?" (- implied) and heard "A Million Little Pieces" , she too had to tell me that the book was a lie. Everyone who had anything to say about the book I was reading said the same thing, and I think they said it for the same reason- as a warning. But even if they didn't say it as a warning, it was what I heard-Watch out! This book might not be what you think it is...this James Frey is telling a story in his story...you know, just be careful. And that is what this whole thing is about...is what you hear a truthful interpretation of what is said? Is what you read a truthful interpretation of what is written? Just how much 'story' is allowed in a story?
Thankfully, David Sedaris had an interview in the Spring '07 Missouri Review that mentioned this very thing in regards to this very book. (Mr. Sedaris, I love you. And that is true, but you can interpret it however you want)
(Sedaris:)"Was it Flannery O'Connor who said that a writer's job is not to have an experience but to contemplate experiences? That seems right to me-trying to make sense of it all." (Interviewer:)"Earlier, we were talking about writing fiction and nonfiction. What do you feel are the most important differences between those two genres?" (Sedaris:)"...Okay, James Frey wrote a book saying, 'I'm a fucked-up alcoholic.' And then people read the book, and now they're saying, 'That drunk lied to us!' Well, he kind of warned you in advance that he was a fucked-up alcoholic. I can't understand the self-righteousness that goes along with that anger. You can let the truth slide when it comes to the president, but if it's a first-time memoirist, how dare he? How dare he lead us on? I loved Angela's Ashes, but if I found out tomorrow that Frank McCourt was born in Dublin instead of Limerick and that his family was wealthy, it wouldn't change my feelings about the book at all. I think autobiography is the last place you would look for truth. Biography, maybe, but not autobiography. Ever since that business with him [James Frey], fact-checkers are in overdrive. It's made my life miserable. Like, the fact-checker from The New Yorker will say, 'We talked to your father, and he said that the grandfather clock is made out of oak, and you say it was made out of cherry.' And it's not a story about a grandfather clock. It doesn't really matter. "
I got to read this book just a couple of months before the Oprah controversy broke. I remember speaking about it to the Social Work Practice class I taught at the time and noted that I wasn't at all convinced that it was "true." But I did think it had some interesting material in it if you could look past the quite serious horseshit*: the oral surgery, the romantic embraces, the endless vomiting, and ultimately, the heroic vindication.
I certainly enjoyed watching Frey squirm as he tried to parse what he understood is meant by "memoir" as if he were not the only person in existence who understands it that way.
What was good was some of the perception (after you remove the intense egoism of Frey) of the co-residents of his particular unit. I treat dozens of people a week. They aren't all whores with hearts of gold, or Mafiosi with souls of poets, but they are all real humans who have been beaten up and beaten down by something that has gotten way out of their control. And they all deserve the chance to get better and get on with life. Frey catches a bit of that.
What was bad is the relentless Freyism that states that you don't have to seriously address your behavior or your underlying character in order to beat an addiction. Frey goes into treatment as a jerk, behaves in treatment as a jerk, and leaves treatment as a jerk. Doesn't work that way. Frey seems to ascribe his "success" to his adamant refusal to be a nice guy and listen to anyone else's perspective.
Basically, the book never was a redemptive saga of a person caught up in drugs and crime. James Frey was essentially a nobody, with some minor traffic violations, maybe doing a little weed, some pills or even some cocaine. Not much to make a book. So he creates a fictional uber-James Frey. It wasn't a little weed or blow, it was drug doses that would kill a normal street junkie. Not a petty disorderly conduct, it was hard time on the Rock sparring with hardbody street toughs. Not a treatment where you sit in groups and listen for hours, it was railing with your strong will against the mind-numbing, soul-destroying system. At certain points, I almost rolled on the floor with laughter.
How do you get spectacular redemption unless you blow everything way out of proportion? Real treatment and redemption in the real world takes months and months (and years and years) of looking at yourself and making thousands of little changes in what you think and feel and do. Instead, Frey offers a formula where there is an inherent nobility and redemption in being a jerk.
*horseshit is a technical term in the literature wheeze