This novel/memoir completely surprised me. I knew of the controversy, but managed to avoid knowing anything else about the novel. Regardless of whether this novel/memoir is falsified or true (Frey has admitted that it was embellished), I think more people should read it. I thought James Frey provided an interesting and intimate look into the life of an addict, whether it was fabricated or not, I still think it was a beautiful story. His writing style took a while to get used to, but over-all it didn’t take anything away from the story.
What I thought was most beautiful about the novel/memoir was the way he wrote about eyes. His struggle to look himself in the eye and the eventual passing of the struggle provided specific instances of improvement, or not, in his struggle to kick his habits. The way Frey described other people’s eyes was both beautiful and eerie. You never learn the name of his ‘first love,’ but you know her as ‘Arctic Eyes’ and that image stays with you throughout the entire book. He talks about the truth in people’s eyes and the darkness and depth in others and I just thought it was incredibly beautiful and insightful.
The one thing I didn’t like about the novel/memoir was what Frey calls ‘The Fury’. It’s an uncontrollable rage that permeates his body and mind and it’s what he says drives him to drink and do drugs. I found it somewhat contradictory that he spends most of the book saying he doesn’t want to blame his condition on anything other than himself, and yet ‘The Fury’ does act as a sort of cop-out. I fully understand that it is an internal struggle and therefore he’s not blaming anyone but himself, but this embodiment of his struggle seemed a bit half-arsed and somewhat caricatured and sardonic. It is clear from the beginning that his distrust and abject loathing of both Alcoholics Anonymous and religion are going to play a role in the book and I will say that he becomes much less hostile towards the end of the novel, especially with the revelation in the last 10 pages.
As for some of the controversial stuff, I’m not sure it was needed. Clearly the story as a whole is an important one to share, even if it goes against AA and most treatment places. In listing what happened to everyone after he leaves the treatment facility, he supports the fact that most of them are unable to live without their habits and die. In my opinion the book would have ended just as well with the final bar scene.
Quotes A Million Little Pieces
“I hold and the rush gains speed and power and it grows, consumes and overwhelms me. I feel good again, perfect, magnificent and invincible, like the power of every orgasm I’ve ever had, could ever have and will ever have has been concentrated into a single moment.” – 47
“There are three shelves with about forty books on each shelf. As I look through them, I am hoping for something that will take me away from here. I want and I need to get the fuck out of here for a while. If I can’t do it physically, I would like to do it in my head. Just a little while. Get me the fuck out of here.” – 76
“There is no fear. Absolutely no fear. When one lives without fear one cannot be broken. When one lives with fear one is broken before one begins to live.” – 230
“I would try to make love to you, and I would probably be clumsy and awkward, but when it was over, I would want you to feel loved.” – 235
“I leave my Room and I walk through the Halls. They are gray like the morning like fading sadness like rising fear. I am aware of them, but they don’t bother me.” – 401