In my review of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces I revealed that I was skeptical of the veracity of his memoir. I wrote that “I’m not sure it’s great writing and I often wonder about the details of the story, but that’s not what interests me about the book.” Good call.
The Smoking Gun can’t seem to corroborate Frey’s description of his criminal arrest in Ohio. It looks like Mr. Frey may have exaggerated the facts in a convoluted version of self-aggrandization. In this case, Mr. Frey’s achievement of recovering, essentially all on his own, from his previous life and his mantra “I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal” is certainly minimized if he really wasn’t much of a drug addict and definitely not a “Criminal” with a capital C.
How important is it that this memoir is quite possibly a work of fiction? It does matter because because what makes the book a good read is the excruciating idea that this isn’t a work a fiction. One imagines the reader exclaiming ‘O my, this really happened!’ If he didn’t actually overcome significant obstacles on his road to recovery then even my observations about the book are weakened (and I wondered about the details of the book before the Smoking Gun pointed out the problem.) Fortunately, the most important details of Frey’s life are really his addictions and, so far, these haven’t been called into question.
Most readers will be content that the real value of this book or any is what it made them think and feel while reading it regardless of how it got there. I too am satisfied that what I got from the book and posted about here is still legitimate and interesting, but I am also confident that this book, as a work of fiction would never have been published. It simply doesn’t carry the same weight. As it stands, it’s a harrowing tale of what human beings can do in the face of adversary, self-created and self cured. As a work of fiction, it’s…whiny. All the more so when one considers just how embarrassingly macho Frey describes himself to be. I didn’t like that part of the book when I read it but considered it a peccadillo, not worth repeating. Perhaps the good news is that Frey’s probably a nice guy–the macho nonsense might well be fiction too.
Meanwhile. My postings are all non-fiction. So far. Really. Come on, leave me alone. The blog would be worth reading either way. Wouldn’t it?