Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Million Little Pieces

I picked this book up for a steep $2.00 at the Grand Bend Flea Market earlier this summer. It's a memoir of a 23-year old man's six weeks in drug rehab, following about 13 years of drug and alcohol abuse. It's not your average memoir. Written in free form (irregular grammar, lack of punctuation, no quotation marks to delineate different speakers, etc.), with blunt language and graphic descriptions, it's not typically the kind of book I would read. There is something, however, completely captivating about this book. From the first few pages, you want to read the narrator to success. Knowing full well that it was the narrator who wrote the memoir, obviously success is going to appear on the last few pages. All the same, it's a gripping story.

What's interesting about the book is the narrator's flagrant disregard for AA--for any sort of standard treatment program, actually. While it's honourable, it's a bit overdone. One too many times, the narrator delivers the same lines: God doesn't exist, f*** AA, the Blue Book is for the weak, etc. etc. On occasion, this humble story borders on arrogance. I'd still recommend it, though, because it seems like an awfully real depiction of the recovery process.

Now for the scandalous bit. Being selected as a feature for Oprah's Book Club was only the beginning of publicity for this book. This is a work of non-fiction that, as it turns out, is not completely true. The author, for example, did not face more than a few hours jail time, although the book tells quite a different story. Frey writes:

A Million Little Pieces is about my memories of my time in a drug and
alcohol treatment center. As has been accurately revealed by two journalists
at an Internet Web site, and subsequently acknowledged by me, during
the process of writing the book, I embellished many details about my
past experiences, and altered others in order to serve what I felt was the
greater purpose of the book. I sincerely apologize to those readers who
have been disappointed by my actions.

(Amazon has a full copy of the Note to the Reader included in later editions of this publication.)

Disappointed? Nah. But perhaps that's because I knew about the truth-doctoring before I read it. It's still a good book; it just probably doesn't deserve to have the words "Memoir" stamped on it, without "Fictional" stamped in front of it.

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