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A Million Little Pieces Hardcover – April 15, 2003

2,135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

News from Doubleday & Anchor Books

The controversy over James Frey's A Million Little Pieces has caused serious concern at Doubleday and Anchor Books. Recent interpretations of our previous statement notwithstanding, it is not the policy or stance of this company that it doesn’t matter whether a book sold as nonfiction is true. A nonfiction book should adhere to the facts as the author knows them.

It is, however, Doubleday and Anchor's policy to stand with our authors when accusations are initially leveled against their work, and we continue to believe this is right and proper. A publisher's relationship with an author is based to an extent on trust. Mr. Frey's repeated representations of the book's accuracy, throughout publication and promotion, assured us that everything in it was true to his recollections. When the Smoking Gun report appeared, our first response, given that we were still learning the facts of the matter, was to support our author. Since then, we have questioned him about the allegations and have sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished.

We bear a responsibility for what we publish, and apologize to the reading public for any unintentional confusion surrounding the publication of A Million Little Pieces.


Note: The following editorial reviews were written before the recent revelations by James Frey and the publisher.

Amazon.com
The electrifying opening of James Frey's debut memoir, A Million Little Pieces, smash-cuts to the then 23-year-old author on a Chicago-bound plane "covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood." Wanted by authorities in three states, without ID or any money, his face mangled and missing four front teeth, Frey is on a steep descent from a dark marathon of drug abuse. His stunned family checks him into a famed Minnesota drug treatment center where a doctor promises "he will be dead within a few days" if he starts to use again, and where Frey spends two agonizing months of detox confronting "The Fury" head on:

I want a drink. I want fifty drinks. I want a bottle of the purest, strongest, most destructive, most poisonous alcohol on Earth. I want fifty bottles of it. I want crack, dirty and yellow and filled with formaldehyde. I want a pile of powder meth, five hundred hits of acid, a garbage bag filled with mushrooms, a tube of glue bigger than a truck, a pool of gas large enough to drown in. I want something anything whatever however as much as I can.

One of the more harrowing sections is when Frey submits to major dental surgery without the benefit of anesthesia or painkillers (he fights the mind-blowing waves of "bayonet" pain by digging his fingers into two old tennis balls until his nails crack). His fellow patients include a damaged crack addict with whom Frey wades into an ill-fated relationship, a federal judge, a former championship boxer, and a mobster (who, upon his release, throws a hilarious surf-and-turf bacchanal, complete with pay-per-view boxing). In the book's epilogue, when Frey ticks off a terse update on everyone, you can almost hear the Jim Carroll Band's brutal survivor's lament "People Who Died" kicking in on the soundtrack of the inevitable film adaptation.

The rage-fueled memoir is kept in check by Frey's cool, minimalist style. Like his steady mantra, "I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal," Frey's use of repetition takes on a crisp, lyrical quality which lends itself to the surreal experience. The book could have benefited from being a bit leaner. Nearly 400 pages is a long time to spend under Frey's influence, and the stylistic acrobatics (no quotation marks, random capitalization, left-aligned text, wild paragraph breaks) may seem too self-conscious for some readers, but beyond the literary fireworks lurks a fierce debut. --Brad Thomas Parsons

From Publishers Weekly

Frey is pretender to the throne of the aggressive, digressive, cocky Kings David: Eggers and Foster Wallace. Pre-pub comparisons to those writers spring not from Frey's writing but from his attitude: as a recent advance profile put it, the 33-year-old former drug dealer and screenwriter "wants to be the greatest literary writer of his generation." While the Davids have their faults, their work is unquestionably literary. Frey's work is more mirrored surface than depth, but this superficiality has its attractions. With a combination of upper-middle-class entitlement, street credibility garnered by astronomical drug intake and PowerPoint-like sentence fragments and clipped dialogue, Frey proffers a book that is deeply flawed, too long, a trial of even the most na‹ve reader's credulousness-yet its posturings hit a nerve. This is not a new story: boy from a nice, if a little chilly, family gets into trouble early with alcohol and drugs and stays there. Pieces begins as Frey arrives at Hazelden, which claims to be the most successful treatment center in the world, though its success rate is a mere 17%. There are flashbacks to the binges that led to rehab and digressions into the history of other patients: a mobster, a boxer, a former college administrator, and Lilly, his forbidden love interest, a classic fallen princess, former prostitute and crack addict. What sets Pieces apart from other memoirs about 12-stepping is Frey's resistance to the concept of a higher power. The book is sure to draw criticism from the recovery community, which is, in a sense, Frey's great gimmick. He is someone whose problems seem to stem from being uncomfortable with authority, and who resists it to the end, surviving despite the odds against him. The prose is repetitive to the point of being exasperating, but the story, with its forays into the consciousness of an addict, is correspondingly difficult to put down.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385507755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385507752
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Frey is originally from Cleveland. He is the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

551 of 622 people found the following review helpful By Macazonian on November 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have worked with alcoholics and addicts for many, many years, and I worked for the Hazelden Foundation, the treatment program the author indicates he attended. His description of the events in treatment never could have happened. All treatment centers are strictly regulated by a licensing board called the Joint Commission as well by state laws. What James Frey describes is in gross violation of these strict standards of accreditation. The treatment center would have been severely disciplined or shut down. Hazelden is one of the finest treatment centers in the world and is the pioneer of treatment as we know it today. Their treatment program is centered on respecting the dignity of each patient and preserving the safety of all who are admitted.

James Frey would not have been admitted into treatment in such terrible medical condition without first being sent to a hospital for care and then admitted only after the hospital staff granted medical clearance. He wouldn't have been given stitches in his face at the treatment center, because treatment centers aren't licensed to give that level of medical care. Yes, recovering people can use anesthetic. Anesthetic is not an addictive drug, so no one needs to endure painful dental work or stitches or surgery without masking the pain. Pain medications (which are addictive) are used when necessary, such as after major surgery.

There are no men in white coats with syringes tackling people who misbehave. People in treatment don't behave in ways the author describes. People are mostly kind, caring and thoughtful. Disagreements are generally mild in nature, and mood-swings are usually the worst we must contend with. When someone behaves in an unacceptable manner, they are asked to change their behavior or be discharged.
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195 of 219 people found the following review helpful By Xzavious Reinbold on June 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazingly bad book.
Ridiculously pretentious,vain and stupid, James Frey wallows in self-pity for many pages.
And his Writing Style is a satirist's dream:

He thinks he's "Edgy" but He just doesn't Know how to Write.
To write, in Words.

How to write. Words, words, words.

I'm James Frey.
I'm repeating myself. Myself, myself, My Self.
My Important Self. My Edgy, Drug-Addicted Self.
Look At Me!
My Rich Parents sent Me to Rehab and I'm Really Edgy!
I'm Writing.
In Sentence Fragments.
That Repeat and Repeat and Repeat. And I'm really Edgy and Maudlin. And in the End I Hug and Hug and Hug and My Stupidity is really an Inspiration to Everyone.
One star: Good for a laff.
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94 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Celso on December 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
It's true. Most of the positive reviews come from people working for the publisher and the author. It's an industry practice as Amazon is one of the best places to sell books and advertize them. Take a look at the following reviews from 2003, and reviews from 2005. Why would anyone spend 2.5, going on 3 years posting the same review under different names if they did not have a vested interest in the sales of this book.

Readers Addiction, April 17, 2003
Reviewer:Helen L. Motley (Ohio) - See all my reviews
I was up 'til midnight reading Frey's Million Little Pieces. I woke again at 4am and read until my alarm went off.

Solid five star book, December 1, 2005
Reviewer:Donna Freuhaf (Pell Lake, WI) - See all my reviews
I was up 'til midnight reading Frey's Million Little Pieces. I woke again at 4am and read until my alarm went off.
______________________________________________
Absorbing, fresh, and never cliched, April 17, 2003
Reviewer:
James Frey has been getting a ton of press and hype over his debut work, and rightly deserved.

Harrowing and enlightening, bright and dark all at once, October 4, 2005
Reviewer:Thomas Watkins (Freemont, CA) - See all my reviews
James Frey has been getting a ton of press and hype over his A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, and rightly deserved
______________________________________________
Please try this book, December 10, 2005
Reviewer:L.N. (Oxford, MS) - See all my reviews
After having read James Frey's debut novel, my answer is an unequivocal and resounding yes.

A writer for a generation?
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128 of 144 people found the following review helpful By Afan of Sitagyl Manor on January 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was reading it last year and got up to the scene where the dentist refuses to give him anaesthetic for his root canal out of concern that he would relapse into drug addiction. I knew this couldn't possibly be true. It was like a ripoff of Marathon Man. At that point, I realized I'd been had and threw the book away in disgust.

I acquired the book accidentally in a mistaken book club shipment and decided to give it a try. The narrator is an annoying spoiled rich kid, extremely unsympathetic. Like most junkies, he's boring. He has no interests except himself. The writing is tedious. When I caught my neighbour reading it on the subway I actually asked him in disbelief, "You LIKE that book?" (He said yes. God knows why.)

Come on, no anaesthetic for a root canal? You'll need an anaesthetic..preferably some hard drugs..in order to enjoy this ridiculous, overheated, overhyped book.
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