August 28, 2006

A Million Little Pieces

Remember last year when that author James Frey got into trouble for lying about parts of his book A Million Little Pieces? Well, I finally read it and cried when I was finished. It was very well done. Very moving and I find myself not caring if it was true or not because reading the book was a good experience. He's a decent writer. His writing is candid and his prose has an interesting cadence.

Some of the book does ring terribly untrue; like the incident where he described getting a double root canal without anesthesia. Or the incident where one of his drug counselors allowed him to run into a fully operational crackhouse (or has described it - a place were people were using crack) to rescue his girlfriend. And then there was the way he agrandized himself, making himself appear tougher that the 12-step AA program for quitting addiction and how he intimidated the toughest guys in there. He beat up a lot of people and won all his confrontations including one with himself where he ripped off a toe nail to feed the feelings that made him want to abuse drugs and alcohol.

But some of what he wrote felt very real. He may or may not have been honest about his criminal activities but what he wrote about feeling vulnerable and insecure and angry and confused and sad and lonely - all of that is very real. He went through what a lot of us, I'm sure went through in our late adolescence and early 20's but without the benefit of every drug known to man. And his story is very relatable.

If only he could have sold the book as fiction. If you start reading about the book's genesis, you'll find out that it was rejected many, many times as a piece of fiction which made him turn to lying about it being non-fiction. It's a shame. Because he's a decent writer. I recommend reading the book. Just remember that some of it may not be the absolute truth. Look at the book as a fiction and you won't feel betrayed.

I can't imagine feeling betrayed by a writer. If you've ever tried to write something, really tried, you appreciate when an author succeeds at communicating their ideas. And that's how I feel about Frey. He was trying to make me understand something about him and he did. I even understand that people with compulsive behaviors sometimes lie with considerable regularity. So, again - not feeling betrayed by Frey.

Of course, I'm not a survivor of anything worse than the regular bad things that happen to regular people. I've never been an addict or suicidal or particapiated in criminal activities. I may resent authority but I never defy it. I've never been arrested. I've never OD'd. I never tried to kill a priest in Paris.

I don't look to books like this for inspiration. They satisfy my curiosity for what it's like to live on the edge. When I was a teenager, it was books by Holocaust survivors. Now as an adult I read about people who survive child abuse and addiction. Come to think of it, maybe I do look to these books for inspiration. Maybe reading about people who survive unimaginable grief and suffering help move us through our comparatively trivial tribulations.

Eh. You know what I'm trying to say.

Read the book. Read the book.

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