Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Million Little Pieces - James Frey

I started the week with a post about my new challenge, but for those uninterested in my reading aspirations (although I can't imagine why you would be reading this blog if you were completely devoid of interest) I did not want to leave you without a book this week.  And not just any book - a highly controversial one at that.

Any fan of Oprah's Book Club knows about the debacle surrounding James Frey's "memoir" A Million Little Pieces.  Oprah awarded the book with a prestigious place in her club in 2005, two years after its release.  As with anything given Oprah's Midas touch, the book garnered immense public recognition and profit.  It topped the New York Times Best Seller list and became the best selling paperback on  Fame, however, came at a price.  Frey, it turns out, fabricated much of the story he had claimed as truth.  I picked up this book knowing its controversial history and read it with the understanding that it could be classified as neither truth nor fiction (You'll notice I tagged this post as both "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" to appease both sides of the aisle.).

Frey describes his stint in rehab after years of alcohol and drug abuse led him to death's door.  The graphic story has a no-holds-barred approach and reflects Frey's attitude as one of anger and indifference.  Frey describes everything from painful root canals without any anesthetic to the mundane cafeteria servings of the center.  The friends he makes include a powerful mobster, a judge, and a woman for whom he falls hard.  His descriptions of the experience create a world so far removed from my own.  I cannot relate to Frey at all, but I could connect with characters such as his distressed parents or the center staff, each insisting that Frey get clean through their predetermined steps.

Despite the embellishments and lies, the book gives a very eye opening view into the life of an addict.  I find it hard to accept some of Frey's details (obviously for good reason), but I do believe that some of that stems from my own innocence about drug culture and alcoholism   Still, I know there are people out there who deal with situations like this which are very real.  If nothing else, Frey's work serves as a reminder of those who battle addiction daily.  Still...Frey did commit a type of fraud by presenting the book as a nonfiction account of his own life.

What are your thoughts?  How should Frey's work be classified?  Does it still have value even if it is not the truth?

Pages: 432
Date Completed: February 9, 2013

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