Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Review

I recently finished A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. It’s that book that everyone raved about as this raw, chilling account of addiction and recovery and yadda yadda yadda… until the shit hit the fan and people found out that Frey had embellished or just plain fabricated a great deal of his ‘memoir’. People were pissed. Especially Oprah. Oprah raved about this book, she took her book club in a completely different direction with Frey’s addiction account because she found the story so moving/inspiring/etc., etc., ad nauseum. And then it turns out so much of it was a lie.

Maybe my take on the book is different since I read it after all the hype, but I don’t see the big deal. Yea, the story is raw; Frey doesn’t spare us the grimy, gory (and sometimes really unnecessary) details of addiction and detox, but it’s also labored. As you read the narrative, you can feel what Frey wants you to feel – how much he wants you to feel it. He’s just trying too hard.

Early critics praise his jarring, pseudo-poetic, stream-of-consciousness style as reflective of the subject matter and experience – the inner workings of an addict’s mind/soul/what-have-you.  Again, I say, he’s trying too hard. Random repetition of words and phrases with a lackadaisical use of punctuation does not a literary genius make.

A Million Little Pieces was also praised as an inspiration for addicts everywhere. Now I am not an alcoholic or addict. I have never dealt with any chemical dependency issues. My biggest dependencies are on chapstick and seltzer. That being said, I don’t believe addicts everywhere should follow Frey’s example. Throughout his entire stay at the treatment facility, he resists all the programs and treatment plans laid out by those trying to help him. I understand his resistance to a certain extent – the facility repeatedly stated that the Twelve Steps are the only way to lasting sobriety. I don’t believe that this is true. Strength to hold on can come from a variety of places. That being said, Frey presents his own way as more effective and dismisses all other philosophies on addiction and recovery. Perhaps Frey’s book can inspire some of those who need help to seek it, but it doesn’t strike me as the inspiring story of recovery that it has been made out to be. Frey is still sober, he has managed to “hold on,” as his friend Leonard said, but to suggest that resistance to proven programs can be equally effective is just plain irresponsible.

I’m not saying that there aren’t merits to A Million Little Pieces. It is an enthralling story. True or not, Frey’s story captivates the reader. As in Frey’s experience, I found myself liking and caring about the characters, regardless of who they were or what they did outside of the treatment facility.

So that’s my say on A Million Little Pieces. I didn’t find it all it was cracked up to be, but it was a decent read.

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