Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey

By Christina VanGinkel

I read A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey, before all the controversy about whether or not it was written in the sense that it was a true story, as it was being promoted as, or if it was mainly a work of fiction. Mr. Frey has since admitted that parts of the story were embellished, and many readers and those who are in the publishing industry itself, believe that Mr. Frey blatantly lied. The first time I heard what was at issue, if it was mostly fact or fiction, the first thing that crossed my mind, was how could anybody, readers, his agent, the people at the publishing house who bought the rights to it, read it, and think that he remembered enough of his years of addictions to write a book about the subject at hand! If even a portion of what he wrote were true, then he would have to embellish, and do so heavily, to create a story about that period of his life. After I read the first few pages of the book, I can recall telling my sister-in-law, who borrowed me the book in the first place, that I wondered just how much of the book was made up, and what parts of it were true.

Due to the subject matter of the book, as you read through the pages, you are keenly aware that it does not add up. That there are aspects of the whole book's progression, that make you aware that what you are reading is not as it happened. Yet, as the reader, you turn the page, and read on. Why do this, somebody who has not read it might ask you? The answer is simple, especially if you have ever known anyone with a strong drug or alcohol addiction, as I did. I wanted to peek into the mind of what they thought might have been their reality. The person, who I knew, did not succeed in pulling himself out of the wasteland that alcohol and drugs can create, so I can never ask him myself to tell me why they did what they did.

I am fully believing that Mr. Frey knew that much of what he wrote was fiction, but not in the sense of how the average editor who has now pulled back their support for the book might consider it fiction. I think that he wanted to honestly make a book that told the story of a strongly addicted person, and if that meant he had to make up parts, so be it. If he would have told the same story as fiction, with a quote that the book was based on some actual happenings, I do not believe it would have reached the audience it did as a true story. In addition, this book has an audience that both needs to read it, and wants to read it.

The story begins with a man so addicted to alcohol and drugs that any semblance of what make a human being, a human, is far from within his reach. The book itself is written in a form, that for me, someone who uses commas to make what I am saying come across clearer (I try to write as I talk), the absence of commas, or any formatting for that matter, was almost too much to bear. Yet, the story is so compelling, that even that did not keep me from turning page after page, to read the horrors that he created himself through overuse of any substance he could conceivable get his hands on. In thinking back to the lack of formatting, I wonder if that in itself was not an attempt to draw the reader into the craziness of what was his life.

While now being sold as a work of fiction, I would still recommend this book to anyone who would dare to take a look into the life of an overly obsessive alcoholic, drug addicted, crazed person. It might offer you nothing more than a glimpse of a life we would never wish on our worst enemy, yet at the same time, offer hope for someone we might know that is standing on the edge, ready to crash.

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