Thursday, May 1, 2014

Author Spotlight: Forgiving James Frey

A Million Little Pieces.jpgJames Frey is the author of A Million Little Pieces. It was published in 2003, and Oprah made him very rich when she chose it for her book club.

Intense, unpredictable, and instantly engaging, A Million Little Pieces is a memoir of drug and alcohol abuse and rehabilitation as it has never been told before: through complete lies. Recounted in visceral, kinetic prose, and crafted with a forthrightness that rejects piety, cynicism, and self-pity, it brings us face-to-face with a provocative new understanding of the nature of addiction and the meaning of recovery.

 By the time he entered a drug and alcohol treatment facility, James Frey had taken his addictions to near-deadly extremes. He had so thoroughly ravaged his body that the facility's doctors were shocked he was still alive. The ensuing torments of detoxification and withdrawal, and the never-ending urge to use chemicals, are captured with a vitality and directness that recalls the seminal eye-opening power of William Burroughs's Junky.

But A Million Little Pieces refuses to fit any mold of drug literature. Inside the clinic, James is surrounded by patients as troubled as he is -- including a judge, a mobster, a one-time world-champion boxer, and a fragile former prostitute to whom he is not allowed to speak to but their friendship and advice strikes James as stronger and truer than the clinic's droning dogma of How to Recover. James refuses to consider himself a victim of anything but his own bad decisions, and insists on accepting sole accountability for the person he has been and the person he may become--which runs directly counter to his counselors' recipes for recovery. James has to fight to find his own way to confront the consequences of the life he has lived so far, and to determine what future, if any, he holds. It is this fight, told with the charismatic energy and power of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, that is at the heart of A Million Little Pieces: the fight between one young man's will and the ever-tempting chemical trip to oblivion, the fight to survive on his own terms, for reasons close to his own heart. A Million Little Pieces is an uncommonly genuine account of a life destroyed and a life reconstructed. It is also the introduction of a bold and talented literary voice.

As you can see, it's pretty glowing.

The issue was that this book was published as a memoir, which was later proven to be false in that many of the items in the story were fabricated. Oprah was ticked. She called him out on her show. But not just Frey. When she was finished with him, she called his publisher to the stage. They were both eviscerated. It was so bad, as a matter of fact, that Oprah later apologized for blasting him so completely and publicly.

His agent dropped him. His publisher dropped him. His contract for additional books and a 7-figure deal were cancelled.

In 2009, Frey started a publishing company aimed at churning out commercially successful young adult novels, like "I Am Number Four". However, the contract that Frey had authors enter reeked of a sweatshop mentality. He was accused by NYMag of "abusing and using MFA students as cheap labor to churn out commercial young adult books".

With all of that said, is Frey a decent author? I can't say because I have refused to read any of his work on the basis of his previous deception and apparent traits of being a none-too-nice person. However, I am willing to bury my hatchet so I can see for myself whether or not he has talent.

I am hereby lifting the self-imposed ban on this author. However, I doubt will have drinks with him anytime soon.

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