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A Million Little Pieces

by James Frey

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey X
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2003, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2004, 448 pages

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Sonia

Superman On Crack

In his debut work, “A Million Little Pieces”, James Frey’s memoir packs one hell of a punch. It’s his own story of the time in his life when he was “an alcoholic, a drug addict and a criminal“, as Frey puts it, and covers his violent struggle with sobriety. You are hooked from the start due to the simple if somewhat unusual style (no speech marks for example) and his rude awakening in the back of a plane with four teeth missing, a hole in his face and covered in vomit.

If his narrative is true and it probably is since part of his drive is committing to the ‘Truth’, Frey has my full attention and admiration as a writer and human being. “One tough cookie” doesn’t even come close. However, it’s hard to see why he is dubbed the “bad-boy” of literature because despite the tough story line, tough language, tough existence and raw imagery, there exists in his narrative a huge tidal wave of humanity. He becomes (whether intentionally or not) the Uber male of the addiction underworld by taking full and unadulterated responsibility for his life. He also lays himself completely vulnerable and bare but at the same time insists on doing it his way and telling it like it is, with the final irony being, that he is both full of fear yet totally fearless. He even risks his life, his place at the centre and his sobriety rescuing a friend just because he knows they need him. Be still my beating heart.

As an antidote to the ‘deep and meaningfuls’ however, there are some very graphic scenes. In places you will be literally reading through your fingers hardly daring to look yet utterly compelled to carry on. Few other writers are as powerful in such a pared-down style. One notable scene is where he has to endure root canal dentistry without anaesthetic because while in re-hab, no painkillers are allowed! Read it and weep. Furthermore, one critic described the experience of reading his work as if they were being “injected by something” and certainly, you do become ‘addicted’ to Frey’s gritty tale, desperate to see how it pans out.

Nevertheless, don’t let the subject matter and associated violence put you off. This book will appeal to the majority; men will understand and relate to the male bonding element and women will just want to love or be loved by him - both probably!

Frey has stated that he wants to be the best writer of his generation. His style is certainly very refreshing, the narrative compelling if brutal, his emotions, from fear through to the much referred to “Fury” are “as piercing as a bayonet” and his sense of self-integrity are enough to make him just that. Certainly if Frey doesn’t have what it takes, few others will either but how he will fair when not writing about himself remains to be seen.



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