Someone sent this to me. I don’t know her blog name, but if I did, I’d list it here.
As she pointed out, note the date.
Yes, I know, I KNOW, but I’m just trying to save you, dear reader, a few clicks. If I go to copyright infringement jail, please send Newports.
AND! Just one more thing… what is with that creepy, greasy, perm-style hair? Ewwww. I have much nicer hair and I certainly plan to exploit it when I meet with Nan.
April 21, 2003
BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Cry and You Cry Alone? Not if You Write About It
By JANET MASLIN
A MILLION LITTLE PIECES
By James Frey
383 pages. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. $22.95.
James Frey is an Addict.
He used to drink a lot and smoke Crack. Starting when he was Ten years old.
Now he is ready to tell his Story.
He went to Rehab at a famous Hospital in Minnesota. His Parents sent him there when he was 23 even though he couldn’t stand them. Back then he was a Mess. The police were after him in three States.
Now he is 33.
Now he is a Writer.
He writes all about Despair and Pain and then Recovery and then Redemption.
Maybe you have heard this story Before. Maybe it sounds like Movies. He ingested Substances for a long time and was very soused. But somehow he ingested those Movies too.
”James Frey is a new voice in fiction,” extols an admirer of his first book, ”A Million Little Pieces,” as part of the readers’ feedback found on Amazon.com. Mr. Frey is reported to have originally presented this material as a novel when he looked for a publisher. Pat Conroy has called this ”the ‘War and Peace’ of addiction.”
Little problem: This story is supposed to be all true. It is supposed to be a scorchingly honest account of how its author sunk to unimaginable depths, railed against the Twelve Step program that was supposed to help him and ultimately found his own form of salvation. His account does have grit and myopic immediacy that could make it a campus classic, what with such attention-getting incidents as the time this self-loathing author pulls off his own toenails. But in charting the course of his experience, he follows a memoirist’s Twelve Step pattern that is as familiar as what Rehab offers.
Step 1: Hit bottom. As ”A Million Little Pieces” begins, its author has knocked out four front teeth and is in horrible shape. How much does he drink? ”As much as I can.” He exemplifies the phrase ”his own worst enemy,” unless you count William Burroughs.
Step 2: Wallow. ”I claw at my skin, tear at my hair, start biting myself,” he writes. ”I don’t have any teeth and I’m biting myself and there are shadows and bright lights and flashes and screams and bugs bugs bugs.” For candor’s sake, and to enlighten sadistic voyeurs everywhere, ”A Million Little Pieces” also describes exactly what it is like to experience root-canal dental work without painkillers.
Step 3: Suffer Remorse. ”Everything that I know and that I am and everything that I’ve done begins flashing in front of my eyes,” he writes. And no wonder. On a typical day in this book’s early phase: ”I follow my usual routine. Crawl to the Bathroom. Vomit. Lie on the floor. Vomit. Lie on the floor.”
Step 4: Scorn Help. In Mr. Frey’s case that means contempt for the Alcoholics Anonymous precepts and cynicism about the stories told at A.A. meetings. ”If it involves the number Twelve, it’s not gonna happen,” he tells his supervisors in Rehab, who want him to use crayons on a First Step coloring book (he chooses black among 64 colors) and write his self-improvement goals on a bulletin board. ”I’m Going to Be a Laker Girl,” he writes. Authorities express doubt as to whether his treatment is really working.
Step 5: Meet a Girl. And go all soggy whenever she appears. Another patient is the beautiful Lilly, who smiles warmly, if predictably, whenever she sees James. She is there to comfort him when it is time for the next phase.
Step 6: Cry. ”The Gates are open and thirteen years of addiction, violence, Hell and their accompaniments are manifesting themselves in dense tears and heavy sobs and a shortness of breath and a profound sense of loss,” he writes. ”It’s wet and Lilly cradles me like a broken Child.”
Step 7: Find a Mentor. ”Life is hard, kid, you gotta be harder,” James is told by a mob boss named Leonard, one of the book’s larger-than-life figures. Leonard, a fellow patient, also alerts James to the wisdom of the Tao te Ching, asks to treat James as his son and stages a big party once things start to go well on the ward. The mobster orders lobster for this celebration.
Step 8: Hug Mom. After much bitterness, and after confessing the kinds of things he used to do while the baby sitter thought he was sleeping, James reaches a rapprochement with his previously hated parents.
Step 9: Recognize Your Strengths. James undergoes routine psychological testing. The verdict: Maybe he was depressed, frustrated, violent, self-destructive and predisposed to addiction. But: ”You are also very intelligent,” he is told.
Step 10: Face a Crisis. In this case it of course involves Lilly. And although every detail of it may be accurate, it powerfully and sadly resembles pulp fiction.
Step 11: Rise Like a Phoenix. Put the past behind you and learn to be happy. Remember, as this book indicates in a postscript, that there are worse things than enduring Rehab as a 23-year-old with well-heeled parents. Many of its secondary characters wind up dead.
Step 12: Publish. Attract a lot of attention.
You know the rest.