James Frey: A Million Little Pieces
I thought about writing two reviews of this book, one review of it as a novel and one as a memoir. I decided not to, however, because, honestly, I'm so happy to be finished with it that I don't want to spent anymore time with it than I have to. I could write my own damn book about it, but I'm not going to.
In brief, A Million Little Pieces is not good. I realize that I am a bit biased since I started the novel after the news broke that James Frey "exaggerated" a lot of details of his life. "Exaggerated" doesn't seem like the right word. Did anyone really believe this shit before Frey's lies were uncovered? The whole book is filled with elements that just fall together in just the right places. There's no way things happened that way. Now, the placement of certain elements in the book to serve the thematic essence of the story is forgivable.
What is unforgivable about Frey's book is the numerous events that come across as complete bullshit. For example, Frey's account of his treatment for drug and alcohol abuse begins when he wakes up on an airplane that has landed in Chicago. He is covered in blood and vomit, his four front teeth are missing, and he has a large hole in his cheek. Later in the book, he recounts talking to a friend who was with him the night before. His friend took him to the hospital after his accident (which, I don't think - I may not remember, Frey actually describes in the book), pleaded with the doctors to not call the police, then dropped him off at the airport to be flown to Chicago to meet his parents. Frey treats this as if it is absolutely normal. Of course he was just put on an airplane and no one was disturbed that he was covered in blood because his four front teeth had just been knocked-out, not to mention the large hole in his cheek. This happens before Frey describes receiving two root canals without pain-killers or anesthesia, which makes absolutely no sense, considering lidocaine, the most commonly-used dental anesthetic, is not a narcotic or addictive.
Other than being over-the-top and false, Frey's book is very pompous and prententious. The James "character" is completely unsympathetic; he break rules at the treatment center and is given second chances. He refuses to blame his addictions on anyone other than himself, yet when his parents try to mend a broken relationship during a visit, he reacts by explaining to them how much he hates them, even admitting that there isn't a reason but his own. What is remarkable is that all of the other characters who James feuds with end up conceding to him, a twenty-three-year-old alcoholic and drug-addict. What infuriates me the most is that he finishes his program after refusing to accept the twelve-step program. According to the epilogue, he has never replapsed. Well, if that is true, it just belittles the Alcoholics Anonymous program and the men and women who have found solace in it.
The book itself reminds me of The Shawshank Redemption: it is filled with despicable characters who demand the reader's sympathy, even though they do not deserve it. The men that Frey writes about are not victims of their own addictions. They chose their lifestyle; their behaviors at the treatment facility is just as deplorable as their behaviors outside, the only difference being the absence of drugs and alcohol.
The worst thing about this book is that people continue to defend it because "it has helped so many people." I'm dubious of anyone whose life changes based on reading a book, and I can't imagine a drug-addict similar to those in this book putting down his or her crack pipe long enough to read someone's narcissistic account of his own recovery. It has done nothing but place the genre of autobiography into further scrutiny. There is something wrong with our culture if we can let James Frey continue to deceive a nation of readers simply because calling his book a memoir makes for an easier sell.