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A Million Little Pieces Paperback – September 22, 2005
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At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey’s acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.
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
For as long as he can remember, Frey has had within him something that he calls "the Fury," a bottomless source of anger and rage that he has kept at bay since he was 10 by obliterating his consciousness with alcohol and drugs. When this memoir begins, the author is 23 and is wanted in three states. He has a raw hole in his cheek big enough to stick a finger through, he's missing four teeth, he's covered with spit blood and vomit, and without ID or any idea where the airplane he finds himself on is heading. It turns out his parents have sent him to a drug rehab center in Minnesota. From the start, Frey refuses to surrender his problem to a 12-step program or to victimize himself by calling his addictions a disease. He demands to be held fully accountable for the person he is and the person he may become. If Frey is a victim, he comes to realize, it's due to nothing but his own bad decisions. Wyman's reading of Frey's terse, raw prose is ideal. His unforgettable performance of Frey's anesthesia-free dental visit will be recalled by listeners with every future dentist appointment. His lump-in-the-throat contained intensity, wherein he neither sobs nor howls with rage but appears a breath away from both, gives listeners a palpable glimpse of the power of addiction and the struggle for recovery.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
As the title of my review implies I read this knowing that majority of it was fictional and because of this I could enjoy it as novel. I don't feel any anger towards Frey nor do I feel duped. Some parts of this book are humorous and touching and Frey shows promise as an author.
I can understand why people love this book. It's raw, gritty and shocking. Every page is thick with emotion and in some parts inspirational.
What I don't understand is how anyone ever believed this story was true. It is just paragraph after paragraph of highly improbable events (root canals done without anaesthesia and boarding a plane unconscious) as well as ridiculous characters(a jazz musician called Miles Davis who decided not to pursue music because another Miles Davis got famous first and a soft-hearted mobster who takes a liking to James). It's laughable!
Frey is all the most egotistical memoirist I have ever come across. He is the Great Addict who doesn't need a higher power or Alcoholic's Anonymous or therapy to overcome his life threatening addiction! Nope, he'll just use his indomitable will to overcome temptation! One wonders why he entered rehab in the first place if it all boils down to just deciding not to drugs. Frey also has an unhealthy obsession with his bodily functions particularly vomiting. He gives up graphic detail of everything he vomits throughout the book. It didn't shock and it didn't evoke pity. It just annoyed me. It was gratuitous.
I recommend this to anyone looking for a good laugh and a protagonist they'll love to hate!
I found myself not being able to close this book easily. It wasn't until my boyfriend complained of starvation and my thinking that his skinny butt might shrivel up and blow away that I had to make him dinner- lol! But right after dinner I was right back to reading, and finished this rather lengthy memoir (so to speak) in about a day and a half. It obviously wasn't the best book I've ever read in my life but I think I enjoyed it so much because I can relate to some of the things Frey says.