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A Million Little Pieces

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Why does the Man who writes the book capitalize some Nouns but not other nouns? Is the Man doing it because he thinks it's artsy? I don't think a memoir should be artsy as much as it should be factual. Why are there no paragraph breaks or margins? I think the Man just thinks he's cool, and Cool Guys don't need margins or paragraph breaks.

Why does the Man keep repeating things? He eats eggs. He eats cheese.

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He eats eggs and cheese. He vomits and vomits and vomits and vomits. He is scared and heartbroken and worried and mad and facing his anger and wanting to drink and do drugs and hurt himself. I want to hurt him for writing lists instead of sentences. I also want to hurt him For Doing. But there's something about the book that made me want to read more. And I read it. I didn't throw it across the room in a fit of Rage. It made me not want to do Crack. But I've never wanted to do Crack. And maybe that's why my Million Pieces are still together. View all 28 comments. May 26, Flannery rated it it was amazing.

I read MLP in the spring of after it was recommended to me by an internship supervisor-turned-friend when I shared with her a story I wrote about a man addicted to cocaine, inspired by true life events. Her life had also been touched by addiction and when she learned that mine was, she lent me the book. I was pulled in by it, chewed up, and spit out with everything put back together differently.

Together, we dissected it at length, comparing battle scars reopened by Frey's raw-edged prose. We were the only ones we knew who had read it, and we didn't dare recommend it to just anyone. It was too weighty, the subject material cut too deep. No, MLP was like a secret club, something to be shared prefaced with a disclaimer of "It's really intense, and kind of gory at parts, impossible to read at others, but you might like it Dear, sweet, well-meaning Oprah departed from her usual selections and took her book club down a more gnarled, jagged path.

Before long, suburban housewives were gasping when Frey vomited for the twelfth time, themselves gagging on lunch when he got his root canal with only tennis balls to squeeze to control the pain until his nails shattered, discussing his every relapse over coffee, weeping when he found the redemption he had fought so hard against. Then, The Smoking Gun happened. They broke open his story, exposing alleged embellishments and outright fabrications. They vilified him, putting him down in a fiery pit with the likes of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair.

The millions of sheep Oprah shepherded Frey's way responded in kind, guided by a new messiah with a new message: Frey was a dirty, rotten man who should be spit upon if you run into him on the street. And certainly don't waste your tears and pity on such a despicable individual.

They feel betrayed. They welcomed this man into their hearts, they prayed for him, and parts of him never existed. That's all this book is to them-- the tragic story of a reluctant an unlikely hero. A bit less palatable than, say, Macbeth, but the archetype is still the same. The Smoking Gun does have some hard evidence, I'm not going to lie.

I don't know Frey personally, I don't know anything about him beyond what he has written.

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However, it doesn't diminish how I feel about the book. There are those of us, like my friend and I, with whom the book resonated due to an association with addiction, can appreciate it for what it is, however true or fabricated it may be. I'm still haunted by things I read in that book. I keep going back to the root canal scene. That's one of the parts of the book that's under suspicion. Whether it happened or not, it's still captivating. My own mother is in recovery with over a decade of sobriety. She has to be very careful with what medications they use, no matter how much pain they're in, or how detatched they'd like to be.

She's been clean and sober for over a decade, yet there are choices she to make every day with regards to keeping that sobriety. No, it's not as intense as the root canal scene. Both, however, serve as examples of how that one drink after work can turn into 4 drinks and then passing out can turn into something that will direct the rest of your life. The fact of the matter remains, the writing is solid and the story is compelling.

If you read the book and you got a glimmer of hope from it, whether it be about your own addiction or the demons a loved one has faced, then it's still a worthwhile read. View all 7 comments. Aug 01, I. Apr 17, Yulia rated it did not like it Shelves: me-moirs , enjoyably-awful , read-to-me-by-frank. So bad, it's eminently quotable. I fondly remember lines like, "I endured, I endured, I fucking endured" and "a bayonet, an eight-foot bayonet, a fucking eight-foot bayonet" both during his traumatic root canal poor Jimmy , and "Like a child being burned alive, a child being burned alive, a child being fucking burned alive," Frey's way of describing a grown man's screaming at the top of his lungs.

See the pattern here? Forgive me if I misquote him by leaving out ellipses. No, I didn't demand a So bad, it's eminently quotable. No, I didn't demand a refund on my copy: I borrowed the book from a friend. You could say this is stunning prose in that it feels like an eight-foot bayonet being rammed through you, but then I've never been bayoneted, so I wouldn't know. Dec 06, Grace rated it really liked it. I really wish I'd gotten my shit together to review this before all of the news about how much of it might be fiction started swirling around.

But since I didn't, I feel some responsibility to talk about that, as well as about the book itself. Oh well. The drama, in case you live under a rock, is that the truth of a number of the claims Frey makes in this book, a memoir, is being contested. You can take a look at this article if you'd like more information. My thoughts are that Frey probably did I really wish I'd gotten my shit together to review this before all of the news about how much of it might be fiction started swirling around.

My thoughts are that Frey probably did exaggerate or simply make up some of the things he writes in A Million Little Pieces. Mostly, though, I don't care. My not caring is twofold. First, this is a great book, and it would be a great book if it were fiction, so why should it matter how much of it actually happened?

People write with an agenda, people even remember with an agenda, and that's always going to come across, to some extent. That being said, if it's true that Frey exaggerated or invented a lot of what is in this book, then a disclaimer to that effect should have been printed at the front of the book.

I can accept that, and I even admire the perspective. But it's not fair to the reader not to lay it out at the beginning if that is what you are doing. O'Brien does lay it out, and Frey probably should have. That all being said, I thought this was a very high quality book. The plot is, in many ways, predictable. Frey is a young, well-off, white alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal. The book is the story of his six-week "last chance" rehab, during which time he comes off his addictions and begins his path of sobriety. Nothing revolutionary there. However, Frey's writing is top notch, which makes the story interesting to read, and his take on addiction and recovery is much less that you find in most people who write about it and much more like that I've found in the real life addicts I know.

Frey has little respect for AA or 12 stepping in general, and he insists throughout the book on taking responsibility for his own actions and for his addictions. He even finds fault with the untouchable tenant that addiction is a disease. To me, at least, these things are interesting. And whether Frey the human being ever really held them or to what extent matters very little to me. What I'm interested in is what Frey the writer has to say about them.

A Million Little Pieces Reader’s Guide

I like this book because it was interesting to read, it didn't remind me of every other addiction book I've ever read, and it made me think. None of those things require a single word of it to have been true. So I recommend you read it. However, if there is a sharp and important delineation in your mind between fiction and memoir, you'd probably better read this one as fiction.

View all 5 comments. May 28, Amanda rated it did not like it Shelves: fiction. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It was just such utter crap -- oh, look at me, I'm so fucked up I can't even look myself in the eyes, in fact I'm more fucked up than EVERYONE else around me at this drug rehab facility, and yet somehow everyone just instinctively loves me -- and look how tough I am, I can undergo dental surgery without anesthesia, because I AM HARD-CORE an [warning: swear words follow, beware beware] So I read this knowing it was a total work of fiction, but I think I would have gotten it even if I hadn't known.

Yeah, I really hated this book. View all 11 comments.

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Mar 31, Dash rated it did not like it Recommends it for: Nobody under any circumstances. Recommended to Dash by: A reviewer who's name I can't recall, but I still hold disdain f. Shelves: biography-memior. What a million little piece s of crap! By the time I finished this book I was craving a few stiff drinks, desperately tearing up the house looking for a syringe and spoon. If I had only thrown this one in the Goodwill bin sooner! I have no clue why anyone would think this was worthwhile reading material.

I found it to be vapid, self-aggrandizing bullshit from start to finish. This book was so badly written and sophomoric, I never had an inkling of empathy for any of the characters, particularly the author himself. So why am I wasting my time writing this review? Just in hopes that you will decide not to read this shite! Thank you for just saying no to "A Million Little Pieces" - you would have a much better time reading the operating manual for your toaster oven while smoking a rock.

View all 14 comments. The first part of this book is well done. Frey does describe what it is like to be an addict well. After that, it was pure fiction - very dangerous fiction for an addict. From his description, I believe he went to the same treatment center as I did. They would never allow him to run his own program or pull half the crap he said he did. It isn't logical nor part of any reputable treatment plan, to allow the addict to cu The first part of this book is well done.

It isn't logical nor part of any reputable treatment plan, to allow the addict to cure himself. If it was, none of us would ever be in a treatment center in the first place. I went there because it was that or death. Kudos for that. She believed the whole book - I knew most of it was fiction way before Oprah finally got around to saying it. Thumbs down to Oprah on this one - she had to know it too, from her medical expert who supposedly told her well before air time.

As for Mr. There are better ways for a loved one to know what it is like to be an addict. If that person won't go to AA, NA or Alanon - if you think this is the only way for them to learn - by all means give them the book. View all 10 comments. Mar 25, joel rated it really liked it. Original Review - edited slightly mostly for grammar in I got into a discussion about this book yesterday with some fellow goodreads friends and thought I should add my two cents here.

I must start, as is customary with this one, by saying I read the book after it was picked to be in Oprah's book club, but before the scandal occurred. I enjoyed the book. I attempted to rate it based on the way I felt upon completing it, and without the perspective I now have which is likely affected Original Review - edited slightly mostly for grammar in I attempted to rate it based on the way I felt upon completing it, and without the perspective I now have which is likely affected by the scandal.

When I finished the book, I was exhausted and emotionally drained. This was one of the first recovery books I read. I found the author's writing style to be unique, brisk, and concise in ways I had not previously experienced. Much of this had to do with the nature of the sentences, and paragraphs, and what the pages looked like. View 2 comments. Jun 15, Oriana rated it really liked it Shelves: read , i-liked-it-so-there. Let me start by saying that the primary reason I decided to read this book now was that I got it for free. Not that I wasn't curious; I've got a definite weakness for angst and drugs and devastation and redemption.

I mean, shit like this is ludicrously popular because it like twangs something in us, right? It accesses some kind of emotional core or whatever, some place in us that has struggled too, that wants to see suffering end and the sun shimmer out from behind the clouds and a reward come t Let me start by saying that the primary reason I decided to read this book now was that I got it for free.

It accesses some kind of emotional core or whatever, some place in us that has struggled too, that wants to see suffering end and the sun shimmer out from behind the clouds and a reward come to those who have kicked and screamed and fought to earn it. Anyway: so there, I admit it, I've always assumed I would probably read this book eventually, and would probably even like it.

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Before I get any further, though, I'd like to do a bit of ranting about the whole sordid, shitty scandal. First of all: jesus fuck, how stupid was all that?? I was working at Random House when it was going down; I remember that any of us who wanted to could go to the conference rooms where they were showing the Oprah episode where Nan Talese went on the show so the two of them could get all indignant and talk about how James Frey betrayed them and the American people and bunnies and apple pie.

I stayed at my desk, because it was too stupid to possibly think about. It's a memoir , people, and memoirs are fucking subjective. Furthermore, it's a memoir of the first few weeks of convalescence after ten years of nightly blackouts due to extreme consumption of insane amounts of drugs and alcohol. Is it really that surprising that Frey forgot or fucked up some details?

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And even further more, it's a story , it's a book, people, and Frey had the sense to be a writer, to lay a narrative arc over things, to make beginning-middle-end sections, to insert snappy dialogue where it was probably a lot less snappy, to make people maybe just a little bit smarter and more interesting than maybe they really were. This is not wrong. The reason why books aren't explicitly true to life is because life is boring sometimes, and when you write a book or a movie or a comedy act, you can gloss over the inconsequential things and capitalize on the interesting bits.

It was ludicrous how Random House fell all over themselves to work both sides of the issue "You guys think he's still relevant and important? Oh, then we of course stand by our authors. But wait, you guys over there think he's a fuckup and a liar? Well we were lied to too! Poor us!

Please don't stop buying our books! Puke and puke. I also have a lot of anger about Oprah much of which well-meaning friends have tried to get me to get over, but no fucking thank you , and I think she too was just exclusively concerned with protecting her brand and her market share, and that everybody scapegoated Frey in an unforgivable way. But then, of course, there's this: scandals sell some fucking books. Sure, Frey was humiliated on TV and throughout the media, but that motherfucker also made a shit-ton of money.

Random House and Oprah kind of had to play both sides of the issue, because both sides were going to buy, buy, buy. Remember that other Oprah mini-scandal with Jonathan Franzen, how she put him on her book club and he said no thanks? Well, let me be clear: the only Oprah books I've ever read, and probably ever will read, are Franzen's and Frey's.

Oprah is so powerful that even the people who hate her make her money and are probably good for her overall. That's fucking scary. Anyway, enough of that; on to the book itself. Will anyone be surprised by this point to hear that I didn't hate it? Well, I didn't. In fact, I liked it a good deal. There were passages where I was pretty damn riveted, honestly, when I couldn't wait until my next cigarette break so I could read some more.

Like I said, it's tough to beat the kind of suffering and struggle and survival that's on display here. I've had friends in NA and AA, and many more who maybe should have been; I'm a good audience for this kind of thing. Moreover, though smoking aside I've never been an addict myself, I quietly agree with a lot of Frey's ideas as presented here, that is about the futility of the Twelve Steps, and how especially the "higher power" bit, along with things like "genetically predisposed" and "childhood abuse" and such like, could be looked at as just tidy ways of disavowing responsibility for one's own mistakes.

I mean, for fuck's sake, I smoke a lot of cigarettes, and though yes, I do think I have a bit of an addictive personality, and sure, maybe because my parents didn't take away my bottle early enough I have an oral fixation, and yup, many of my relatives were heavy smokers, but still: every single time I light a cigarette, I am making a decision to do so. I could very certainly not do it, and the times I've quit I've done just that. I am of course in no way saying that heroin is easy to kick, or that physical addiction is as simple to overcome as not striking that match. I am saying, though, that I agree with a lot of the things Frey says here.

That's all. And look: there's no doubt that Frey has crafted himself or: his "self" into a serious bad-boy hero in this book. I'm sure that he is not nearly as smart and clever and recalcitrant and charismatic and nails-tough as he paints himself to be herein. But see above, okay? It's a fucking memoir. Does anyone for one second believe that any memoirist can remember conversations, word for word, from years ago? Of course not. You remember the general idea, maybe a phrase here or there, and you recreate. Re create. A memoir is a creative process just like fiction is.

Sure, there were times during this book when I rolled my eyes and thought "well isn't that tidy," or "I'm really sure he said that ," but that's fine. I am a thinking human being, and I am going to bring my own thoughts and feelings and opinions to what I read, and I am going to dole out my respect and judgement accordingly.

The bottom line, for me, goes back to something I always say about memoirs. One of the quotes on my favorite memoir ever, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City , says something like "finally, a person whose life is deserving of a memoir has the skills to write one. What matters is that Frey has not only gone through some major major shit and lived to tell about it, he is capable of telling about it in a way that is generally compelling and often fascinating.

Sure, he made a lot of really weird style choices like random capitalizations and no indented paragraphs , which I found stupid and distracting. Sure, his story is often overdramatized and too pat. Sure, he paints himself as a pitch-perfect brilliant bad-boy-rebel anti-hero. But fuck. This is still a pretty great book, and I'm really glad I read it.

View all 15 comments. Mar 24, Annie rated it did not like it. I read "A Million Little Pieces" before the entire scandal broke out surrounding the truthfulness of the "memoir". In many scenes in the book I felt as though Frey was self aggrandizing and in some parts even glorifying the experience of being a drug addict. He portrayed drug addicts as rough and r I read "A Million Little Pieces" before the entire scandal broke out surrounding the truthfulness of the "memoir".

He portrayed drug addicts as rough and rugged, people that have been around the block more than once. Although there is definitely some truth to this, the other side of it is that Rehab is an incredibly sad place to visit. It is filled with lost souls who due to their brain chemistry, life experiences and poor luck have no other choice or options but to admit themselves People rarely volunteer rehab, it usually takes a severe "rock bottom" to get them there.

I feel as though Frey's book would have been a lot more powerful had he excluded the sensationalism that seemed to flood the book, much of this represented in his wriitng style one word sentences for dramatic effect. After the scandal was revealed and Frey's book was found to be less than non-fiction, my immediate reaction was sadness.

I view this to mean that Frey has truly not recovered from his addiction, as step four in the 12 -step- program for recovering addicts is to have "made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Not that all of us don't.. To end on a positive note, I will say that "A Million Little Pieces" did give some people a push to seek treatment for their addictions and anything that is able to motivate someone is valuable, no matter the reason behind it.

New thoughts: I have been alerted by another good-reader that Frey refused to follow the 12 steps while he was in rehab I remember this now.. If the memoir was a true story, I would send an emphatic bravo over to Frey and encourage him to design his own program.. However this is not the case and I can only view this as Frey's false promise to other addicts that something other than A.

A and the 12 step program will "cure" them of their demons. Sadly, thus far, for the majority of people, the 12 step program is the only successful way to long term recovery and Frey's invalidation of this process does nothing but direct people away from this track. View all 9 comments. May 16, Caroline rated it did not like it Shelves: auto-and-biog , novels , miscellaneous. Based on true life, this is a story about the author's experiences of addiction and then recovery in rehab. First of all it was marketed as a memoir, secondly, following a debacle with Oprah Winfrey, the author confessed that it was largely altered and padded out to make him look more macho.

The levels of machismo described were ridiculous and irritating Just powering on through it as only a real butch toughi Based on true life, this is a story about the author's experiences of addiction and then recovery in rehab. Just powering on through it as only a real butch toughie can do. Throughout the book he is strong, silent and tough - handling horrible experiences of detoxing and physical side-effects, with great stoicism. To me it appeared that he was boasting about his manliness, and as I already said, I found it irritating. He also describes a love affair he had in rehab, intense and smouldering, as befits a real hunk of man.

The one point of interest for me was that the rehab where he went was supposed to be the best in America, and it kept pushing, pushing, pushing him to do the 12 Step Alcoholic Anonymous programme. He was told flatly that he would fail unless he did the twelve steps, plus there were no alternative programmes on offer. As it was he dug his heels in and totally refused to take part in AA exercises. He attended compulsory lectures, but that was it.

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He just used the general ambiance of rehab, and the support of staff and fellow inmates, in order to recover. But recover he did That much is true. So, this book started out as a memoir, but is now known to be generously fleshed out with fiction. I thought it was gripping when I read it, but when I learnt it wasn't a straight autobiography I felt cheated.

I now wish I hadn't bothered to read it. I wanted to learn about a real experience, not a highly glossed up version of what happened. View all 26 comments. Apr 18, Matt rated it really liked it. In his much-debated book, Frey offers the reader a significant glimpse into his life as an addict and the time he spent in a treatment centre addressing these demons. Opening in dramatic fashion, the reader is immediately treated to Frey circling the drain as he lands in Chicago and is shipped off to an unnamed facility in Minnesota.

His arrival garners much confusion and pushback, as Frey expresses feeling that he did not belong or fit in amongst others who are at various stages of addiction. T In his much-debated book, Frey offers the reader a significant glimpse into his life as an addict and the time he spent in a treatment centre addressing these demons. The reader discovers, through Frey's own narrative, how withdrawn he feels about the process and how, while being frank about the depths to which his addiction overtook his life, he does not feel that a counselling and Twelve Step approach will reunite the million pieces into which his life has shattered over the thirteen years since addiction formally reared its ugly head.

Bridging acquaintances with numerous others at the facility, Frey is able to compare his life against those of others who have also had to battle addiction. With first-hand accounts of withdrawal symptoms, despair, and refusing to engage in therapeutic intervention, Frey seems well on his way to burning the money spent on his time in treatment. It is only when his parents arrive for Family Counselling, an intense program whereby the addict and those closest to him tear off all the scabs related to the addiction, that Frey begins to synthesise the pain and devastation that his life has become.

The reader is able to see the insights that Frey offers, as well as the reactions of his parents, coupled with a better understanding of the addiction's nexus. These insightful sections begin the first steps in the long road to recovery and Frey's ability to find some semblance of order in his shattered life. However, a fellow addict, Lilly, plays a key role in his life at this point in time and their connection proves an addiction in and of itself, as well as contravening the Cardinal Rule of the facility.

A wonderful story that pulls no punches about the horrendous nature of addiction, the struggles an addict faces in coming to the realisation of their powerlessness, and the crux of the recovery process. Told in as raw a format as many readers will have encountered, Frey presents the reader with much food for thought as they explore this poignant narrative.

While much has been made of the validity of the text, those who choose to sit on their pedestals and lob blame or scorn do nothing for the message found within its pages. Frey tells an extremely naked story about the addict and the struggle to climb out of the hole in which they dig themselves. Be it drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or other vices, Frey's narrative can touch the heart of the attentive and non-judgmental reader.

There are no good times, there is no joy, there is no happiness. There is no future and no escape. There is only an obsession. An all-encompassing, fully enveloping, completely overwhelming obsession. Passing judgment or trying to vilify the author because of factual irregularities serves only to demonstrate how said critic misses the point of this book and lacks of ability to comprehend the deeper message. Addiction is horrid, it is a struggle each and every day. We can sit in our ivory towers and bemoan those who drink or smoke crack, but that will not solve the problem, it only seeks to push it under the rug.

While the early chapters were hard for me to digest, not only for their content but also the jagged nature of the writing style, I grew to accept that Frey sought to present the reader with the perspective of the addict, as though it were a written at the time of the events. Choppy, repetitive, and even nonsensical at times, Frey portrays the struggles that the addict must face while also presenting a lifestyle that, for some readers, is entirely foreign. Add to that, the text is free from any quotation marks, allowing him to recollect things as he did, rather than shackling himself into anything binding.

Frey tries to shine light on it and offer a degree of compassion for those who struggle by personalising the suffering. For that, he is owed a debt of gratitude. Thank you, Rae Eddy, for opening my eyes to this book and to the inner struggles with which I could relate on many levels.

You have touched my life in ways that I cannot clearly elucidate, but I think you know precisely what I mean, even without the written word. Kudos, Mr. Frey for putting forth this frank account of the struggles an addict faces. Some may be too wrapped up in their own soap box speeches as they dole out praise and the public rushes to guzzle their 'Kool-Aid'.

You steer clear of this and the drama of talk-show blather. Sep 04, Karen Rotwitt Perrin rated it it was amazing. I was so captivated by this book. For the first pages or so, the narrator has his front four teeth knocked out and I kept having the sensation of no front teeth either!

I kept attempting to run my tounge along my barren gums and was "surprised" to find my teeth there instead. It was a completely strange experience, but I mention it just to illustrate how this book immediately transported me to another time and place. Although there were parts where I felt he was too repetitive no more vomit I was so captivated by this book. Although there were parts where I felt he was too repetitive no more vomiting details, please!

I knew about the controversy over the difference between 'memoir' versus 'fiction-based-on-reality' that James Frey sparked with this book, and it was actually part of the reason that I was intrigued enough to buy it and read it myself. I read his forward first along with a note from the publisher, both added to new editions to respond to the controversy and was in agreement with him. A memoir is allowed to be somewhat subjective as it is a person's personal recounting of their life and is open to their interpretations and potentially faulty memory.

What counts is the sum total of the story. As I said before, I was completely taken by the book while reading it. Knowing that he "embellished a little bit here and a little bit there" I was frequently curious if it was this part that he altered, or was it this experience that he enhanced, or what details about this person were changed, or did this episode really happen exactly like this? But as I was under the impression that it was only slightly tweaked and just minor details rearranged, it didn't affect my love of the book.

I was just smitten. So then when I breathlessly finished the book and took to the internet to do a little research, I was so disappointed to learn that it was much more than minor details he changed.

And I surprised myself by how much it upset me. I had thought that Oprah was over-reacting and being righteous and a stickler for inconsequential academic rules. But now I understand. I was willing to allow a bit of creative freedom on Frey's part, but when it seemed that there was more fabrication than truth, I felt lied to and conned to a certain extent. But that doesn't change the fact that it was a spectacular read. Labeling it fiction or non-fiction doesn't make the story any less compelling.

Shelves: memoir , possessions , to-re-read. Our friendly neighborhood Random House rep knew I was a shameless trauma junkie, and when she slid the reviewer's copy across the breakroom table I snapped it up. It was immediately clear to me that this was not a factual book. This is not to say that I thought it was untrue — far from it — but merely that it did not strike me from t [This review is excerpted from a essay I wrote for my blog in ] I started reading A Million Little Pieces in the spring of , shortly before its April release.

This is not to say that I thought it was untrue — far from it — but merely that it did not strike me from the outset as a narrative concerned with facts. Were I writing a review of the book I would say that it is "a deeply impressionistic narrative told for deliberate artistic effect in a well-contrived matter-of-fact style and voice. The narrative persona often seems to be saying nothing much beyond 'this happened, then this happened, then this happened The books works, in the opinion of this reader, and it made me a big fan. This past July I met James Frey. He struck me and others I was with as a surprisingly arrogant individual, given how shy he seemed at the same time.

His frank admission of the literary aspirations that led him to write A Million Little Pieces was impressive in its near-megalomaniacal ambition. He stated that he wrote A Million Little Pieces in the style he did as part of a carefully-conceived plan to win a lasting place among literary greats like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Joyce. Nothing like aiming high for yourself. And now it is revealed: he made it up. Not the whole thing, but pretty big details that, if disqualified, leave us with a pretty tame story bereft of much of tension and narrative drive that fills the book as published.

His true story was not, apparently, nearly so thrilling as the narrator in the book would have us believe. Which revelation leads to an outraged public and an even more outraged community of non-fiction writers, who seem to feel that Mr. Frey has irreparably harmed the reputation of the genre and jeopardized their chances at getting their own books published and read by tens of thousands of readers.

What is my opinion of Frey's literary transgression? He now admits that he did indeed lie to us, his readers. He appears to have gone beyond the 'acceptable' bounds of embellishment and given us in his arrogance a tale of the tub, and played us all for suckers. Unless, of course he is lying about having lied Does that make him a charlatan, his literary achievement a fraud? It is certainly disappointing. Yet it does not utterly discredit him for me. When I was reading the book, it was clear to me that this was not a narrative of events so much as the impression of an experience.

From an external point of view I knew it was too amazing to be true, yet between the covers of the book, it was true, and that is the only real criterion I insist be met in my reading. But enough about Mr. I have bigger fisher to fry now. Don't even think that there was a pun there. In all the fracas this past month a troubling theme has been constant.

Those who are upset over this incident are operating on an expectation that is to my mind completely unrealistic: the expectation of objective truth in memoir. In fact, in most of the punditry on this, it strikes me that there is a widespread application of journalistic expectations being imposed inappropriately to a genre where they do not apply.

Journalists report to us facts, at least that is the assumption we still operate under for the most part. When that 'contract' is breached, as it has been in a handful of highly-publicized cases in recent years, the public is rightly outraged. We read the newspapers and newsweeklies with an expectation of a high level of concrete factual reporting, backed up by carefully-researched and scrupulously-verified evidence and testimony.

We expect journalistic integrity. Such are the parameters of the journalistic genre, and its practitioners are painfully aware that they must work within them, or reap the whirlwind. Does the same apply for the writer of a personal memoir? I do not believe it does, nor that it should. The memoirist is not typically a journalist. Nor is he or she under obligation to provide the public with timely information of a factual nature. Instead, he or she is voluntarily sharing, with widely-varying degrees of candor, their personal lived experience, often after a passage of some years from the events described.

In some cases the memoirist may employ journalistic techniques to verify their recollections against other sources, in others they might not. But the primary source for the memoir is — like the word says — the memory of the author, the one who remembers. He or she is attempting an 'eyewitness' account of their own lived experience, and such an undertaking, based on individual memory, is simply not going to result in a 'true' story in the sense that the public seems to suddenly demand. As a reader, I do not turn to memoir seeking objective truth. I am going out on a shaky ideological limb here, but I do not see objective truth as possible in the relation — written or verbal — of personal lived experience.

The memory of lived experience is distorted through so many psychological lenses under the tamest of circumstances that it is hardly to be trusted; and memoir as a genre often deals with circumstances that are far from tame.