Monday, April 29, 2013

A Million Little Pieces

This was one of the books I purchased during a book buying spree some time ago. It sat on my bookshelf with its fancy cover and urged me to pick it up and yet I did not. It continued to sit there until this year when I really started making progress in reading all of my purchased, unread books that I've collected. So I grabbed it off my shelf one morning and took it with me to the bus. It was cold, that January cold that seems to suck out the air from your chest, and it was early. I'm not the best with early mornings; I want to be left alone and enjoy silence and it's certainly best to just let me do as much. Well, this morning that wasn't going to happen.

I got onto my bus, took a seat, flicked on the overhead light and opened this book. I began reading the quote at the start of the book when a man sat next to me and quite suddenly said to me, "You know, that book's fake." I looked up at him, wondering what the hell he was talking about and why was he talking to me so early in the morning. He continued to tell me that the author, James Frey, had lied and the book was written as a memoir when it was, in fact, a fake. 

I stared at the man, trying to comprehend what he was talking about and also trying to keep my early morning annoyance low, then muttered a reply before turning to the book. Still, the conversation stuck with me as I read the book. Do I take this as fact or fiction? What of it is real? What of it is fake? I wanted to research but I also didn't want to ruin anything for myself so, with that, if you have not read the book before it's your own decision if you'd like to read the article where the cat was let out of the bag. (There are some bits that are spoiler-ish). 

But how do you review a book that's promoted as a memoir but much of the truth is likely stretched? How do you review what could possibly be someones real lives? 

Let's start with my initial reaction: the book is sad. It's not a walk in the park because alcoholism and addiction is not a walk in the park and for that, I find truth in his writing. The book is blunt and overwhelming. It doesn't hold back the punches and it very much describes what I imagine this illness has to bear. You'll love some of the characters, hate others, and feel frustrated.

The book is typed without a single indent nor paragraph break. There isn't quotation marks and you are left to figure out who is saying what, which gets confusing when it's an ongoing conversation. However, after a number of pages in the book I felt I got the hang of when there was dialogue and when there wasn't but boy did it become confusing when I'd leave the book off for a bit and return to where I had left off.

The book took me longer to read than I thought it would and I wonder if it was due to the depressing subject matter. The only time I really had to read the book was on the bus to and from work, my lunch breaks, or before bed. That's precious time for me, time I don't really have a chance to have during the work week, and to spend it reading a pretty sad book... well, I wonder if it took me so long to read the book because I often times thought, "I'm not really up to reading that right now."

The author certainly has talent in description. Detail of the condition his face was in upon entering rehab left me feeling nauseated and weak. At points, I literally had to turn away and stop reading because it was making me so queasy. It's rare that I have physical reactions to something I've read but Frey managed to pull out of me a little bit of gagging and groaning.

In the end, I wasn't sure how to feel about this book or the people mentioned within. Some succeeded in life post-rehab, others failed, and I felt bad for those characters, to see that they had lost their battle. But that was where things became sticky. This book is a "memoir" and, according to Frey, loosely based on his actual life. Whether or not every character in the book actually existed is beyond my knowledge -- I didn't know. Some of the character's I really disliked, I found myself hating them, but then I thought "These could be real people."

How am I to review someones behavior and actions if they are real? But the thing is, I don't know if they are. The claims of fraud in this book are many and yet not very clear. You could feel bad for a character who lost their battle and they may be real, you may feel bad for a real person, or you may feel bad for a fictional being.

By the time I was finished with this book I had the similar sticky feeling I get whenever I read books about addiction and mental illness: I feel thankful that I have not experienced that nor have been close to anyone who has and I feel sorrow for those who have lives affected by this. But I was glad to put the book down and even still am unsure of how I feel about it. Not so much because of what the book pertains but more so because I do not know what is fact or fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment!