Monday, 23 January 2012
57/111 - A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
I bought A Million Little Pieces several years ago when I was still at university as part of a 3 for 2 offer. At the time I bought it, I knew nothing about the controversy surrounding it (I do now, obviously) and I only chose to read it this week because I recently watched the South Park episode, A Million Little Fibers.
My main feeling while reading this was incredulity that anyone could possible have believed that the events James recounted were real. The thing reads just like a movie script - every other scene involves James staring down some tough guy or making some sort of point and absolutely none of it reads like truth. Angry young man enters rehab; a tough (but kind) older patient (who is also a mobster) takes James under his wing; a stick-in-the-mud doctor doesn't agree with James' non-conformist ways; a kindly female doctor takes pity on James; his new friends are from high places and manage to get his prison sentence reduced; a damaged young woman is intrigued by him and they fall in love.
I don't know if I'd feel this way if I hadn't known that Frey basically made the whole thing up. All the same, it's an okay story, I guess. A couple of stylistic points annoyed me a lot - there is no punctuation when characters are speaking, and it's relatively easy to follow, however omitting the punctuation adds nothing to the text save to make it a bit more pretentious. Likewise, there are a lot of paragraph breaks where the previous paragraph only had one or two words, which is kind of lazy and amateurish, I think.
I was sort of intrigued by Leonard, the mobster character, and I know there is a sequel about him, however I'm not sure I'd bother reading it. I'm pretty sceptical of Frey on the whole after reading more into his history - basically I gather that he had some sort of drug problem, but his run-ins with the law and the bad-ass-ness of his character are all fictitious. What I don't understand is why he bothered to market the book as a memoir. Most (if not all) authors surely take experiences from their personal lives when they are writing fiction - when I think about some of Stephen King's best books, some of them are about writers/English teachers and are based in Maine - however they're not marketed as memoir. Why bother stretching the truth like that? For more publicity and money? I guess so.
I also find it incredibly hard to believe that the publisher didn't know what was going on. I was doing some work for a publisher last year sometime who were investigating the authenticity of a potential memoir. It had gotten all the way to the stage where they were designing the cover and naming the book, and the publishers were quite insistent that they meet the author (who claimed she was in hiding) before publication. She mysteriously died the next day. To my knowledge they never published the book.
Next: And This is True by Emily Mackie