Friday, January 14, 2011

Fact or Fiction? Who Cares?

"Live sober and live free. It's gonna be hard and scary and brutal, but if you just hold on, you'll be okay. Just hold on." -Leonard, A Million Little Pieces

Also, I think the cover work is brilliant
Eye catching and playful 

So I'm a little late to this game. In 2003, the world was buzzing about the James Frey novel A Million Little Pieces (AMLP from here on out) and the controversy that surrounded the work. Now eight years later, I'm throwing my two cents in. I'm not going to go too much into the whole debate because its been hashed and rehashed so many times already (can something even be hashed besides potatoes?). All I will say is that I don't care whether the novel is fiction or non-fiction, that he expanded the truth in some areas or may have lied a bit. I would like you to show me an author who doesn't stretch the truth. The thing is, you can tell that this guy went through some serious issues with drugs and alcohol throughout his life through his writing. The point of the story is not whether Frey went to jail or who he met there/ didn't; the book is about survival and the will of the human spirit and overcoming adversity. I cannot believe that Oprah would demean a man for trying to get this message across just because he fabricated some things in a effort to look "tougher or more daring or more agressive than (he) really is or was." (From Frey's note to readers in 2nd edition copies of AMLP)
So, regardless of what Oprah says, I loved this book and its 2005 follow up My Friend Leonard (MFL). Both books were frank, honest, and emotional. Frey holds nothing back and hides nothing about his horrid past and addictions. I was surprised at how much I came to care about these damaged, real people.
One of the things I like the best about these books was the writing style. The reader is privy to every one of  Frey's thoughts, desires, and addictions. He captures these emotions through stream of consciousness technique that allows the reader inside his drug and alocol addled mind. Despite the fact that I have no experience with drugs or alcohol I felt that I was able to better understand his life as an "alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal," because of the way he wrote.
Despite some of the reviews I've read, I think Frey's "character" was very likable. He is not one who asks you to like him or not, he is merely showing his recovery and his life on his own terms; something I respected very much. The other colorful characters that fill AMLP and MFL, whether real or made up, all evoked emotional responses because of their suffering and desire to overcome their addictions. Leonard (who I hope is real) was by far one of the most complex, wonderful "characters" (I honestly don't know what else to call it). What touched me about him was not his reality, but how he helped Frey, their relationship, and how they saved each others lives. As I finshed the book on a crowded train, I found myself blinking back tears because of the emotional response evoked by the lives of these extraordinary men drawn together by terrible circumstances, not because I felt duped by Frey.
"I forgot to give you the secret to kicking ass in bold. But not bold, be fucking confident and calm, be fucking bold."-Leonard, My Friend Leonard

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