A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

As you know, my boyfriend is the non-fiction fan/reader/book collector and I handle the fiction side of things. Although he hasn’t read the book, James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces sits atop one of his shelves. I’ve opened, flipped through it, and even looked at the back cover a few times . . . but I’ve never read a single page. Well, during a recent bookstore browse I saw the audio book on clearance and convinced myself to cough up an astounding $4!

So somewhere in between assisting my mother with various things (as I prepare for her arrival), completing 20-page papers for my semester finale, and driving to handle a few business matters (seriously) with my boyfriend in Houston, I’ve had time to listen to Frey’s “memoir” in my car. First of all, let me say that Oliver Wyman is a damn good reader. My mother listens to audio books more than I do and we’ve joked about people having dry reading voices. Wyman is not one of those people. He does a variety of character voices, gets crazy, yells, mumbles–he’s good. Now, maybe it’s the fact that the story that he’s reading requires such attention to vocal details in order to really capture the energy. I don’t know. But this semester my creative writing professor was on our tails about recalling the imagery/visuals that words/sounds present us with. A Million Little Pieces does a helluva job capturing your attention with that exact thing.

I was originally intrigued by this book because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with other book lovers and just so happened to get into a discussion of Frey’s Oprah fiasco. After listening to 2 out of 8 discs, I decided to do a little research of my own to find out the details of what Frey fabricated:

I altered events and details all the way through the book. Some of those include my role in a train accident that killed a girl from my school. While I was not, in real-life, directly involved in the accident, I was profoundly affected by it. Others involved jail time I served, which in the book is three months, but which in reality was only several hours, and certain criminal events, including an arrest in Ohio, which was embellished. There has been much discussion, and dispute, about a scene in the book involving a root-canal procedure that takes place without anesthesia. I wrote that passage from memory, and have medical records that seem to support it. My account has been questioned by the treatment facility, and they believe my memory may be flawed. In addition, names and identifying characteristics of all the treatment patients in the book and all of the facility’s employees, characteristics including occupations, ages, places of residence, and places and means of death, were changed to protect the anonymity of those involved in this period in my life. This was done in the spirit of respecting every individual’s anonymity, which is something we were urged to do while in treatment, and to continue to do after we left.

I made other alterations in my portrayal of myself, most of which portrayed me in ways that made me tougher and more daring and more aggressive than in reality I was, or I am [NaySue: see I thought those parts sounded especially fake — lol]. People cope with adversity in many different ways, ways that are deeply personal. I think one way people cope is by developing a skewed perception of themselves that allows them to overcome and do things they thought they couldn’t do before. My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience. (Read the complete author’s note . . .)

James Frey’s thoughts on Oprah and other things:

And of course the book excerpt:

I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut. I open them and I look around and I’m in the back of a plane and there’s no one near me. I look at my clothes and my clothes are covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood. I reach for the call button and I find it and I push it and I wait and thirty seconds later an Attendant arrives.

How can I help you?

Where am I going?

You don’t know?

No.

You’re going to Chicago, Sir.

How did I get here?

A Doctor and two men brought you on.

They say anything?

They talked to the Captain, Sir. We were told to let you sleep.

How long till we land?

About twenty minutes.

Thank you.

Although I never look up, I know she smiles and feels sorry for me. She shouldn’t.

(Read more . . .)

What I didn’t know about this story is that The Smoking Gun folks were the ones who exposed Frey. During their search for mugshots, they found out they needed to dig a little deeper for more information on a few cracks in Frey’s story.

Frey says he never expected the book to be this successful—had it not been, maybe nobody would have ever found out or cared about whether he told the truth. Maybe . . .

Happy reading ya’ll.

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26 thoughts on “A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

  1. By the time this was “exposed”, I had already read it and it’s sequel. And while I believe that no memoir is 100% true (I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning), they were still well crafted stories and I enjoyed them.

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  2. I think James Fry should have catagorized this book as “based on a true story” or “based on James Fry’s journey through addiction and treatment.” That would have saved him a lot of trouble. Memory, by nature, is never accurate and memoir, as a genre, is story told from a certain angle or a focus on a particular time.

    On a personal note, I grew up one street over from James, whose nickname as a little boy was Jimminy. My younger brothers were friends with James and his older brother, Bobby. After I read the book and told my brothers about it, we all agreed that James was exagerating and embelishing. However, I truly enjoyed A Million Little Pieces becuase of Fry’s control over the narrator’s voice. Moving a plot forward in first person is not easy! I also commend Fry’s mother, Lynn, for sticking by her son–I thought his treatment of his parents in his book was exptemely harsh.

    PJ

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  3. I am currently in the process of reading One Million Little Pieces. I didn’t know about the controversy, but I don’t believe it will effect the way I perceive the book. I haven’t been able to put the book down. It is extremely well crafted and I hang on to every page. I had a brother who went through 7 months of drug rehab and this book has helped me relate to him. I am giving him the book next and I am curious to see what he thinks. I can’t wait to finish so I can begin the next one!!

    Keep on writing!
    Kimberly

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  4. James Frey is a damn good writer and even if his books are not 100% true, they are still intriguing and I love them. Mainly everything is derived from a true event and everyone exaggerates when recalling a past memory. He didn’t know the book was going to get as much attention as it did so pardon him if he categorized it wrong.. the genre shouldn’t determine whether the book is good or not because it was GREAT any way you slice it! no big deal right? I’m reading the Sequel right now (My Friend Leonard) and it is equally as good as A Million Little Pieces and I would suggest any one who has read A.M.L.P. to also read My Friend Leonard. “People cope with adversity in many different ways, ways that are deeply personal. I think one way people cope is by developing a skewed perception of themselves that allows them to overcome and do things they thought they couldn’t do before. My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience.” – James Frey. That quote alone explains it all and if James Frey were to read this, I would want him to know that it was noott a mistake to write about the person in your mind because i cope the same way and i related sooo deeply to you!!

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  5. well i just finished amillion little pieces literally about 20 minutes ago. i thought the book was definitely a page turner..i coundnt believe all of those things could have happened to one person. i decieded to do a little reseach on the author to see if i could find out more about his life now..i dont watch oprah so i had no idea about the controversy. in the book i do admitt certain things seem very fabricated but im not james frey and i wasnt there so who am i to condemn. i dont know if id call the book non-fiction i think its more of “based on true events”..either way it was entertaining..i just wish i hadnt spent the whole time reading it thinking it was 100 percent true because the ending was kinda sad..

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  6. I have just finished my copy of A Million Little Pieces as well and really could care-less if it was true or not. With my background and knowledge and experience with addiction my perception was that someone whom is going through an addiction and a withdrawal has a misconstrued perception, someone that is addicted to drugs is usually suffering from a mental illness as well. I enjoyed every page.. skipped the intro relating to the controversy and gave it to someone that I think might benefit from the good read.

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  7. Ive just finished reading A Million Little Pieces – somewhat of an achievement for a non reader! My wife gave me the book to read as she thought I would enjoy it. It wasnt until I was halfway though the book when she told me about the controversy. It bothered me for about a second and then I kept reading. I had a very dear family friend pass away due to drug addiction (his parents names were Lynne and Rob aswell) so I found this book very insightful as to what goes on in such rehab centres. His death was a major factor in me marrying my wife as I was travelling aroun d the states with his brother (my best friend) at the time of his death and my mate had to return home for the funeral.
    Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldnt put it down. I will certainly be reading the follow up.

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  8. A Million Little Pieces is my favorite book ever. My Friend Leonard was great as well… I don’t know how to explain it but it’s simply amazing.
    I don’t care whether it’s true or not. I still love it.
    A friend of my best friend borrowed my cherished copy of AMLP about six months ago… guess he liked it too, because he ever gave it back.
    I miss it 😦

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  9. To be honest, does it matter if he exaggerated the story a bit? The book is phenomenal and to some life changing. The story doesn’t necessarily need to be true for it to mean anything to anyone. Its the readers personal view of its meaning that should really matter. They can call him a fraud, but the man sold millions and is still going. His books My Friend Leonard and Bright Shiny Morning are great. He’s an amazing author and people can try to exploit the false truth of his first book, nothing can hinder his talent.

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  10. I am in the middle of listening to the book on audio. I didn’t know it wasn’t a true story until I started talking to people about how amazing the book is. The book was incredibly written and the reader is with out a doubt the best I’ve heard. I too, Care nothing about the embelishment of the truth in the story because I have been under the spell of addiction. I know it CAN be that bad and has been worse for some addicts. I love the story REGARDLESS..
    I plan on devouring every book James Frey has written.

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  11. I’m almost finished with this book and it has been an eye opener for me. My brother who was an alcoholic died the day before his 30th birthday last May. He had been to rehab and said he only went to make the family feel better. He was on day 4 of being sober for the first time in a very long time when he fell 200 feet from a friends condo. This book has given me a way to understand what my brother may have been feeling. I would recommend this book to anyone.

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  12. i have read a million little pieces multiple times… and every time i cant put it down! it easily one of my favorite books.. iv never read any of freys other work but im lookin forward to it… and as for all the drama over the fact that he exaderated… WHO CARES!!! its an amazing book.. no one cares that it was but in the wrong genre.. its still a amazing book! iv never known anyone who does drugs… even though half my family does them.. i was curious to what they go through… know i know… i say thank you to james frey for writing such an amazing book… it truly changed my life!

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  13. James Frey is a real person, who told a real story with a very real and very powerful message to share. Fiction or non – embellished or not makes little difference. If you feel that it does, then you’ve missed his message to begin with.

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  14. hey- fake, true, total bull or whater…..I LOVED IT and read it in 3 days. I went right out and bought MY FRIEND LEONARD as soon as I closed AMLP.
    Some parts of peoples lives just are they way they are in their memory….I know mine is a bit fuc*ed….But I am sure it would be a better read with my twisted brain explaining the outlandish experiances. Some day I will let you all be the judge…but I will say that it is fiction with reality thrown in the mix.

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  15. I think….I don’t give a flying fuck. This book is genious. Aned the work he has produced since has been genious. I think Oprah needs to do more than give a simple bold faced apology. She needs to blow James, and give a larger donation to the clinic minnesota. He is a genious. Lying or not. He is a damn genious. Not since Kerouac has a “real life” story been this compelling.

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  16. Like several others, I just finished reading this book – literally. I went on the internet to look up pics of James Frey and take a peek at his followup book – and discovered the great “controversy”. Wow. How could anyone with half a brain not realize that OF COURSE there were alterations and embellishments? Given the subject and horrific affect addiction has on people’s lives, not to mention the general haze, details would need to be filled in. However, I think Frey did a spectacular job with his “fictional parts” because all events are very real, very possible. My 15 year old daughter brought this book home from school as her reading choice – and I pounced on it! Incredible book, invaluable message. Thank you James Frey, any degree of honesty is extremely hard.

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  17. It doesn’t matter if this book is 100% fiction. A book this well written is a masterpiece. James was given a very raw deal by Oprah. If he didn’t return to using after that he is one very strong guy. He is a very special and inspirational human being.

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  18. I am reading a million little pieces right now and when I found out about the controversy, it wasnt much a big deal- the main reason i bought this book is that I wanted to know how pepole like him think and why they splurge on these dangerous stuff. I have a soft spot for people like James because someone very special to me is an addict.He lost his mind and it left me wondering why on earth did it have to be him.James did a great job making me understand the whys and hows. it doesnt matter whether the book was not 100% true, the important thing is that every emotion described is heartfelt and heartbreaking as well.

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  19. I heard about the controversy a long time ago but only picked up the book recently. I read it with the idea in my mind that it was fiction. Does it matter that he lied? I think it does, especially as the character emphasizes the importance of truth throughout the book. I’m a journalist though, so “The Truth” is something I think about and struggle with constantly. I also feel that whether you present it as fact or fiction, the truth, even if it is not the literal truth, is what all great writing presents. I think this book has moments of greatness. I.e., there was a lot of truth to this story, more than most stories, even if it wasn’t all true.

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  20. I love this book. And My Friend Leonard. I’m obsessed.. Whether or not the story is accurate to a T is insignificant in my opinion as the books are both amazing reads. Kudos to you James Frey, you’re one hell of a writer.

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  21. First of all, his last names Frey, not Fry. And the book is called A Million Little Pieces, not One Million Little Pieces. It doesn’t matter if the book is completely true, it’s still a great book and people can learn from his experiences.

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