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Thread: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

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    FORT Fogey lambikins's Avatar
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    A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

    I went back two years in this thread to see if there was any specific thread addressing this book and couldn't find anything. So, I think it's okay to start one.

    This book was completely off my radar. My roommate, Michele, came up to me three days ago, waving it in her hand and yelling, "YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!!!" Since I was between books at the moment and it was New Year's Day and I was beginning to burn out on the 20 hours of The Twilight Zone Marathon, I willingly took it and went off into the bedroom to read.

    It's been three days now, I'm on page #109, and I have no idea if I'll finish it.

    If you know nothing about this book, as I did not, this is what it boils down to: Written by James Frey, it's supposedly autobiographical about his 6 weeks in rehab at Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota. He is 23 when he is sent to the clinic (apparently 12 years ago). The book is one of Oprah's book club and apparently Frey is the new "it" person on talk shows, because he beat his addiction but he did it "my way", meaning he dismissed the 12 Step Program and therapists suggestions and got straight and drug free through just strong will.

    His writing style is completely unique and his images are brutal so I understand that that is a big part of his attraction to readers. However from the very first page, I began to doubt the reality of this "real" book and now I'm pretty convinced that it's 50% truth-50% fabrication/embellishment.

    So, because Michele was starry-eyed enthralled with this and wasn't about to debate it, I went on-line and have read over 1000 reviews of this book (yes, I really did...on Amazon.com and other sites).

    What it boils down to is this: If you have NEVER had an addiction or known an addict, YOU FRICKIN ADORE THIS BOOK AND THINK FREY IS THE NEXT JESUS CHRIST. However, if you've either been an addict, gone into recovery or lived with an addict, it reads like a piece of fiction. There are posters who have done google searches of many of the things Frey claims happened with NO support found. People who work in rehab places, airlines and dentists offices are saying the same thing about parts of the book: "It's pure fiction and would NOT have happened!" Some of the interesting puns on his title A MILLION LITTLE PIECES are "A Bazillion Little Pieces" and "A Million Little Sheep".

    It seems like the line is drawn in the sand and this book is either "believed and changed my life" or it's "a big pile of s__t and Frey is a narcissist rich boy hack" who's "parents paid for $50,000 of therapy and the book to be published."

    Has any one HERE read this book yet or know anyone who has? I might finish it, only so I'm fully aware of the depths of Frey's ego. But having lived with a cocaine addict/alcoholic for 10 years who ended up dying 3 days after he was released from Hazelden (my second husband), I know of what I speak and Frey just comes across like an interesting piece of fiction with one HUGE anti-authority chip on his shoulder.
    Still crazy, after all these shears

    "lambikins, put the crack pipe down and back away from the keyboard." Unklescott

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    LG.
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    Lambi, I haven't read it, but I think he was on Oprah yesterday promoting the book. I turned the channel because he struck me as a privileged brat. They introduced him as having started drinking at age 10 and drugs at age 12, but then say "when he was in college" and I was thinking RIIIIGHT, so many drug addicted kids get into college (or bother to apply) let alone actually attend . . . well, those with rich parents who do things for them. Then he woke up on a plane, all beat up, not sure how he got there, and his parents had sent for him to be picked up and flown across the country for rehab, and this book was about his "amazing journey" to sobriety, and I just wanted to slap the guy. Oprah asked how he survived and he credited HIMSELF, not his parents, not God or a higher power, HE did it by HIMSELF because he's so super-duper. That was all I could take before I turned this clown off. I've been to fundraisers for Hazelden (a chemical dependency treatment center in Minnesota) and have heard the stories of actual addicts who got help from Hazelden (including someone who is now a local tv chef) and their stories involve fighting with rats for rancid food in abandonded buildings and really, really scraping the bottom of the barrell and coming close to death, and then end thanking everyone, as they wouldn't have survived if left to their own devices.
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    Anarchist AJane's Avatar
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    I saw the Oprah show. Frey sure won't get any awards for Most Winning Personality, but as the old saw goes - if you save at least one life, it's all worth it. There were two female addicts that Oprah dredged up (one from her message board, apparently - didn't catch where the other came from) and Frey met with them and has extended an offer of personal support.

    As for curing/controlling addictions...I don't know. Most of the people I've known with addictions never changed. An exception is my friend's husband, who was a severe alcoholic who stopped drinking cold turkey 11 years ago (when my friend left him because she couldn't take any more of his behaviour - they married after he became sober). No backsliding, no treatment, nothing. The day he put down the bottle, he turned into a model boyfriend/husband, then father. Works his butt off at his day job, has an at-home business on the side, and is a helluva provider for his family. Go figure.

    As for Frey's book...I haven't read it yet (still on the library waiting list) but I hope it's as good a read as I've heard. It's been discussed in the "What Are You Reading?" thread and I think the reviews have been positive.
    All my life, I have felt destiny tugging at my sleeve.~ Thursday Next
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    FORT Fan horsnhound's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LG. View Post
    and this book was about his "amazing journey" to sobriety, and I just wanted to slap the guy. Oprah asked how he survived and he credited HIMSELF, not his parents, not God or a higher power, HE did it by HIMSELF because he's so super-duper. That was all I could take before I turned this clown off. .
    I read the book and until I research further, I am choosing to keep my opinions on whether it is factual or fiction to myself. That being said, I think you really need to read the book before you jump to any conclusions. Mr. Frey was told at Hazeldon that the 12 steps and God were the only way he would have a 17% chance at recovery. He was forcefed 12 steps every day for 2 months and resisted the whole time. I totally understand his resistance as they relate to his personal beliefs, and this 1 size fits all approach will not work for everyone (perhaps a fatal flaw in the rehabilitation system and why success rates are so low). Mr. Frey did find answers, however in the teachings of the Tao Te Ching. The truth is, the only person responsible for your actions is you. Mr. Frey took credit for his recovery by saying he chose to quit, and if you read the book you would know that he also took credit for all his problems. He blamed no one but himself for his addictions. His parents would try to shoulder the responsibility and express guilt at various times and always he would inform them that it was never their fault, there was nothing they could have done, and he knew that they were always there for him. There is a fatal flaw in thinking this man is wrong in taking credit in his recovery, in fact if he didn't own it and instead looked to and relied on others for his success, he would lose his power and fall victim to the "so and so let me down, I can't trust anyone" excuses that so many addicts give in to. And again if you read the book, you would know that he thanked not only his parents several times but many friends in helping him through his journey. I think the fact that Mr. Frey opens up the door to the idea that you can get better following a path other than God, AA, 12 steps et. all is commendable in that it opens up greater opportunities for success for those who don't subscribe to the 1 size fits all approach.

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    Culture slut geek the girl's Avatar
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    I read the book almost a year ago and found it moving, disturbing and well-written. Easily one of my best reads of 2005. Since I fall into the first category (although I certainly don't think of Frey as God. On the opposite, his attitude is pretty tiresome. He can write, though, and that's about all I care about when I read something - including autobiographies and non-fiction), I haven't given some of the issues lambikins addresses much thought, so I should probably steer clear from it. I pretty much treated the book as a work of fiction, mostly because of its literary style but also because I don't feel I have the expertise to be able to make assessments on how accurate the story is. As an atheist/agnostic (the jury's still out on that one), though, I did find it refreshing that he chose another path towards sobriety than forced-upon Christianity. Don't get me wrong, I am positive that many, many people can find strength and power in God when struggling with addictions. I just don't like how the 12 Step Program, which, unless I'm mistaken, is heavily based upon Christian notions, is thought of as the only way to sobriety. Not all people believe in God and don't feel comfortable with using a program based on it. Growing up with non-believing parents, hardly ever going to church, etc, I would probably feel like a hypocrite using the 12 Step Program. Having said that, I do find it alarming just how many people seem to be thinking of James Frey as some sort of God. I think of him as a good writer with a moving story to tell, and since I don't know him personally or have any experience with addiction, that's where I draw the line.

    Do read A Million Little Pieces, though, since it's a deeply moving, well-written book. Just don't think of it as THE answer to everyone struggling with addiction.
    "There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more" (Morrissey)

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    My soul... Lonelyguy82's Avatar
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    I'm reading that book right now!!! Whoa, it's definitely deep and powerful book and that book is interesting and different. I was hooked to it already. Now I'm already on 280 pages that I just bought this book from Barnes & Nobel a day and a half ago. I really liked it but... like geek the girl said.

    Quote Originally Posted by geek the girl View Post
    Do read A Million Little Pieces, though, since it's a deeply moving, well-written book. Just don't think of it as THE answer to everyone struggling with addiction.
    So true. And like some of you mentioned, I don't believe this book is 100 percent truth.. Maybe it has some truths in it but not all of it. A couple of first pages? Please - so ficitonal.
    Stop the world! I want to get off!

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  7. #7
    PWS
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    I also just finished this book--it definitely seems to be the in thing--I'm at a resort and a woman at the next table tried to buy it off me when she saw I was done--she said every other person seemed to be reading it ( it was my friend's and she hadn't finished it yet, so couldn't oblige the stranger).
    I fall in lambikin's first category so can't comment on the 'truth" aspects, but it is a powerful read. I must say I didn't find the Tao messages he was reading all that different from the Let Go and Let God messages of the 12 step program... both seem to say to be in the moment and stop obsessing over past and future, but he found it a lot more palatable without God in it (as I would), so whatever works for you....
    Re his authority/control problems, a possible explanation appears near the end of the book, and even though he isn't convinced that what happened in the first 2 years of his life is "the explanation" he does seem to be in better shape after hearing it.
    I didn't see Oprah, but in the book he clearly gives credit to friends, girlfriend and family for helping him stay in treatment and care enough about living to keep trying.
    As hinted above there is a horrific root canal w/o anesthesia scene...now I know they used to be done that way (I still remember cavities being filled without it), and that it was considered a horrible experience ... be curious if any readers old enough to have gone through that thought that was realistic.

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    Wonky snarkmistress Lucy's Avatar
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    I haven't read this book, but y'all might find this interesting. Apparently it's not true.

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive...amesfrey1.html
    It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever. -- David St. Hubbins

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    Culture slut geek the girl's Avatar
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    Who cares if it's true or not? It's still a great book. If James Frey has fabricated parts of it, I don't see how that would in any way lower its literary value. The writing style is clearly that of a fictional novel anyway. In my experience, once you sit down to write something, you're bound to fictionalize. I can see how Oprah might get upset by this though.
    Last edited by geek the girl; 01-09-2006 at 03:40 PM.
    "There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more" (Morrissey)

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    Bitten Critical's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geek the girl View Post
    Who cares if it's true or not? It's still a great book. If James Frey has fabricated parts of it, I don't see how that would in any way lower its literary value. The writing style is clearly that of a fictional novel anyway. In my experience, once you sit down to write something, you're bound to fictionalize. I can see how Oprah might get upset by this though.
    I haven't read the book, so I can't attest to it's merits as a good read. I think the issue is that the author appeared on all of these media outlets, including Oprah, and swore that 100% of the book was true. There's a BIG difference between being beaten with billy clubs, arrested for felony assault and felony DUI, along with a number of other charges for which you spend 3 months in lock up (which is what he claimed in the book) and being arrested and held in custody for 5 hours. That's not just a little embellishing.

    The article I read indicated that they were, at one point, planning on marketing it as fiction, which would have been preferable. The author had to have known that the truth would eventually come out. Why couldn't he do what Debbie Fisher did with Postcards from the Edge and say that it was "loosely autobiographical fiction?"
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

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