iamom: (newk)
There's lots of good reading about this stuff right now on Google News. Frey is also appearing on Larry King tonight, and he will undoubtedly be asked about these allegations re his book.

The online writers groups and blogs I've checked out today are freaking out about this, as could be expected, although reactions are split between those who are grievously offended that he has reached such a level of success by passing the work off as non-fiction when it's actually not, and those who think the story stands on its own regardless of the underlying facts.

I'm on the fence between both of those views. As an aspiring fiction writer myself, I want to call foul for what appears to me to be a massive queue-jump to fame and success by writing a horrific [fictional] story which he passed off as true. Even if parts of the story are indeed true (and Christ, who knows which parts are?), I seriously doubt that the work would have garnered as much attention as it has (certainly not from Oprah, for chrissakes, whose last number of book picks have been dyed-in-the-wool classics by Faulkner, Garcia-Marquez, Tolstoy, and the like). Undeniably, the mass popular appeal for this book has been based, until a few days ago, on the premise that this shocking tale actually happened to him.

I also don't buy his defense that AMLPis simply his best recollection of events from his drug-addled mind. If that's the case, and if he knew ahead of time that certain key facts weren't necessarily true (and let's be honest, he could have undergone the very same fact-checking exercise that The Smoking Gun did to figure out exactly what did and didn't happen in Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere), then he should have made that clear through the means of a disclaimer (incidentally, there's apparently a disclaimer like that at the beginning of My Friend Leonard, the sequel to AMLP). In other words, I think that he should have just called it a work of fiction. One based on true life events, to be sure, and no less compelling a story as a result, but a work of fiction nevertheless.

Having said all of that, I still think the book is a great read and I think that Frey is a very good writer. However, his credibility may be ruined if this scandal reaches its possibly logical conclusion. I'm quite interested to see what Random House and Oprah end up doing in the next few weeks. Random House's early reaction is quite telling, though: they're offering a refund to anyone who purchased the book directly from them. (Correction: The Random House refund story was later refuted by the publisher as false.)
iamom: (portrait)
A Million Little Pieces (amazon.ca | amazon.com) was selected for Oprah's Book Club last fall, notable in that respect for being the first contemporary work selected by her for quite some time. AMLP is author and screenwriter James Frey's account of how he became rehabilitated from a heavy addiction to alcohol, cocaine, crack, and other drugs, and I just finished reading it a few weeks ago. (Frey's IMDB entry is here.)

By all accounts, it's a gripping, suspenseful, touching, and moving story. It's also written in an unusual but effective style: it is without standard punctuation, it uses unorthodox capitalization to emphasize certain words, and certain phrases and sentences are repeated several times in a given paragraph or page for even further emphasis.

Parts of the story border on the horrific. Detailed accounts of his detox, which include descriptions of oft-daily vomiting and shitting of blood, vomiting up parts of his stomach (?), undergoing a double root canal without anaesthetic, and tearing off one of his toenails as a form of self-punishment, are all heart-stopping. Pivotal aspects of the book also include his criminal offences, which are purportedly numerous, and at a critical point in his rehab he must face felony charges from a confrontation with police in Ohio which are expected to lead to his serving upwards of 8 years in a federal prison.

And this is where Frey's story becomes dicey. Especially if you consult the editors of the famous tell-all website, The Smoking Gun. Because even though several parts of the story don't ring true (for example, the book opens with him on an airplane, covered with vomit and blood, with a broken nose, a hole in his cheek, and blood all over his face -- one wonders which airline in the US would ever accept a passenger like that on board, let alone unaccompanied), Frey has insisted several times (including on his appearance on Oprah) that everything in the book is factually correct. Not so, according to TSG.

The Smoking Gun first suspected factual errors in Frey's book when they tried to obtain the mug shots from Frey's escapades to post on their website (this is one of the site's most popular draws -- celebrity mugshots from folks as varied as Bill Gates, Michael Jackson, and Tom Delay). They had trouble locating those mugshots though, and that led them to do some fact-checking on Frey's criminal claims in his book.

The results of their research are exhaustively outlined in this 6-page article on TSG, and essentially they break down most of the claims in the book. James Frey himself has refused to address the claims personally (aside from having his lawyers send a cease-and-desist letter to TSG, but he has posted bits of TSG's allegations on his own blog, albeit without comment.

If the TSG research is correct, I think that James Frey has some explaining to do. And it's not that I don't find his story to be any less compelling or worth reading, it's just that, if the main facts of his story are untrue, then the rest of his story can be reasonably called deeply into question as well. And that, of course, makes it essentially a work of fiction. A good work of fiction, but a work of fiction nevertheless. Although, according to this post on GalleyCat, it was a work of fiction which was rejected by 17 publishers when Frey submitted it as a work of fiction before revamping it as a memoir for its current incarnation.

I'm very curious to see how this turns out. But even before all this, the book has started a hell of a buzz, I know that. And spent several weeks on the bestseller lists, too.
iamom: (mos def)
I read an absolutely fantastic non-fiction book over the break called A Million Pieces (amazon.ca | amazon.com) by a drug addict and alcoholic turned Hollywood screenwriter named James Frey (Google | wiki). My take on the book is that he appears to have cured himself of his addictions with the help of the Tao Te Ching. He strongly disavowed the 12-Step Program underwritten in the treatment centre in which the memoir takes place, opting instead to use his own latent self-insight and self-knowledge to overcome the bad decision-making patterns he established in early life.

One thing that struck me over and over was the way in which I could substitute the word "food" for "crack cocaine" in his book and feel like he was describing the same thing. The compulsive feelings he had for crack cocaine are extremely similar to the compulsive feelings I have about food. I could really identify with his struggle to control his unhealthy urges, even if the extent of damage caused by our respective addictions is vastly different. (In Frey's case, he overcame his addictions through a mental process whereby he took his own honest inventory (à la AA), admitted to himself and to his parents that he was an alcoholic, a drug addict, and a criminal, and that he had ruined his life and that of his parents through his self-destructive decisions and behaviour regarding alcohol, drugs, chemicals, and crime.)

The book was picked up by Oprah's book club, and I don't doubt it will garner a lot of attention for its audacious writing style, its ironclad grip on your emotions, and its inspiring message. Our friend Maggie's initial reactions to the book were most à propos: raw but not rude... clipping but not harried... reality but not lacking imagination.


iamom: (Default)
Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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