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A Million Little Pieces

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Global Citizen
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A Million Little Pieces

Postby Global Citizen » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 8:58 am

This best selling book by novice author James Frey has recently come under scrutiny by critics who say James took liberties when he wrote it by embellishing, exaggerating and fabricating some of the events that took place in his book.

James, whose book depicts his struggle with drug and alcohol addiction and chronicles his fall into the depths of despair and his truimphant rise when he overcame his addiction and wrote his story which incidentally became a best seller overnight when Oprah Winfrey recommended it as the book to read.

James recently appeared on Larry King Live with his mother by his side, amidst the controversy surrounding his book to shed some light and give his side of the story. In his defence, James says that his book is a memoir and not strictly an autobiographical account as some time frames in the book (like the actual time he spent in prison for instance) are inaccurate.

There is no doubt that his book has proven to be an inspiration to lots of people suffering from similar addictions and whose lives have spiralled out of control. I have read excerpts of his book on Amazon and it's really gripping right from the outset.

But the question remains: Is James justified in his actions or should he be vilified (OK, maybe too strong a word here but I'm sort of stuck for one) for misleading the public by taking a certain "creative license" with his book?
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Postby Wind In My Hair » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 10:09 am

good post, GC. i haven't read the book but saw it somewhere and will read it someday. he didn't say he was writing a history book, did he? so im fine with some references being out of whack. personally im amazed that a drug and alcohol addict can remember enough to write about his past coherently in the first place! im more inclined to fault, if anything at all, the publisher for not getting a good copywriter. isn't that their job to check factual accuracy?

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Postby Global Citizen » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 10:36 am

Yup you're right. The publishing house has a responsibility to verify the accuracy of content in a book it chooses to publish. In this case the publisher is no fly on the wall either but powerhouse Random House and incidentally, they are now offering refunds to readers who bought the book directly from the publisher.

Sales which had lagged a little when the controversy first hit the news have now pushed the book back on the best seller list after his appearance on the Larry King show , where Oprah had called in with her support, which just proves a little notoriety ain't always bad for business!
Last edited by Global Citizen on Mon, 16 Jan 2006 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Em Eye » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 10:40 am

This book moved me beyond words.

The section is question does not change the underlying message of the book. James lived a life that very, very few people survive. He was killing himself with drugs and alcohol. He was weeks away from death and made a commitment to himself to get better, taking it one moment at a time, holding on. James has been sober for 13 years and that should be celebrated.

They can argue as much as they like about whether it is true and should it be called a memoir, it was the publisher’s decision to classify in this category. The section is question was after rehab.

I read a lot of books and this book has stayed with me for a long time. I would recommend this book to anyone. If you haven't read it go and buy it but be prepared to taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

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Postby Wham » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 10:43 am

The kid LIED in the book over and over and at this point nobody disputes this. If he was telling a stroy, he should have called it a "fictional account" of his life - but he did not. He called it a memior. This is just wrong

I think he and his publisher should both be vilified and Oprah has lost a lot of credability for NOT standing up and doing the right thing. By supporting the author, they send a message that it is OK to lie if it makes the story more interesting. The reason i believe this is that next time i read a "memior" i will wonder how true it is... so therefore, the entire genre suffers as a result of the lack of integrity by both the greedy publisher (not willing to risk book sales by an immediate recall and repackage) and by Oprah, who is apparently too rich to admit when she was dupped. Shameful behavior when a quick decisive response could have been so effective - and respected!
"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." Samuel Johnson

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Postby Em Eye » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 11:03 am

Apparently less than 5% of the book is fabricated and that is why it was classified a memoir.

I stand by my earlier post that it doesn't change the essence of the book.

The sections in rehab have be verified using medical records and journals he kept while in rehab. To make it through rehab and to be sober for 13 years is an amazing effort. This is what should be celebrated.

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Postby Wham » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 2:46 pm

The effort is outstanding. No doubt. But the publisher and author would STILL HAVE credability if they owned up to the fabrication and ammended the description accordingly.

oh... and how do you know sober for 13 years... are you sure???
"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." Samuel Johnson

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Postby Bremen » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 3:53 pm

Wham wrote:The effort is outstanding. No doubt. But the publisher and author would STILL HAVE credability if they owned up to the fabrication and ammended the description accordingly.

oh... and how do you know sober for 13 years... are you sure???


I agree... So much was fabricated, especially his accounts of jailtime and police beatings. He claimed to be in an all-out violent fistfight with Ohio cops, when the cops themselves said he was polite and they let him off with a warning.
"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life."
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Postby Bubbles » Mon, 16 Jan 2006 5:11 pm

A very interesting discussion. Firstly, let me say that I haven't read this book but have heard nothing but complementary comments about it.

Secondly....... I think a large part of this book's appeal is that it was touted as a real life struggle, and the author was deliberately shown publicly. This was obviously part of Random House's plan for sales, that the writer be part of the selling process by being available for inspection. Being on Oprah was most probably orchestrated by RH's publicity department and a slot on the show would have been hard fought for. Yes, Oprah has her 'reading list' for the month, and it usually follows that whatever book she has on goes onto be a success, and RH would have fought tooth and nail to have her read this.....you can bet your bottom dollar she does not just peruse the bookshelves of her local bookshop herself and 'come up' with a choice.

However, Random House, one of the world's largest publishing houses, would NOT have gone with this author if they had not thought he was good enough to sell....(definition of 'good' in publishing terms is a movable feast, it's all about the money....if it's 'of the moment' or 'something completely different' then it's more likely to make money....and that's what it is...a business to make money after all)....

However, publishing it as a memoir still does not preclude some fictional recollections being included, but these should be side issues, and perhaps involve emotions that did or did not get felt....and should never be checkable, verifiable facts which are in the public domain. It does make you think, doesn't it, if Random House have offered to refund the public....something I have NEVER heard of before...then they must be aware that a large percentage, or important quoted facts, within the book are fabricated. They could have done this for legal reasons, and not out of the goodness of their hearts, for if they were rock solid on their facts all we'd get is a 'tough!'

And the question, 'Should the author have owned up and said that not every single fact was reality?'.....hmm, I think not. Every time every one of us looks back on an incident it is different. If we were to write it down after it happened, you would get fabrications everywhere.....and we'd be doing it unconsciously, because unless you have a machine brain, then how can we remember everything fact for fact? A writers job is to make a scene look interesting by adding colour....not say something like, 'I woke up, got out of bed, went to work, did work, had lunch, did more work, caught the tube, got home, watched tv, went to bed.'....is it?

HOWEVER....and here's the dispute......it depends how much he altered and whether, in that alteration, he can be said to be encouraging others to follow a path or action or glorify something he did not experience. But if the main part of the book DID happen to him, and the ending DID happen.....then unless he quoted real people, doing things they did not do, or him following a fictional course of therapy which does not exist...(and would cause others to try to find it) well, I say he presents a hope to hard drug users, and that can't be bad, made up story or not.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas.

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Postby Wham » Tue, 17 Jan 2006 1:59 pm

Bubbles wrote:And the question, 'Should the author have owned up and said that not every single fact was reality?'.....hmm, I think not. .


Sorry Bubs, i profoundly disagree with the above as it is as close as you come to summarizing your view. What this author wrote was a fictional account of his life, and NOT a memoir. There is a big difference. When one day in a jail cell turns into 30 for dramatic appeal, the line is 100% crossed. We are not talking about a casual fact - but a stretch of the truth that drags the story into the realm of fiction.

Literature is littered with great fictional accounts of real life events by authors such as Herman Melville, Jack London, Earnest Hemmingway, Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey - in fact - the interesting thing about some of their greatest works is to look back at the actual life vs the story and see what was real and what was not - but in no case did the authors call their works MEMOIRS - as that would have been a lie.

So my point is that what this guy wrote was "a fictional account of his real life story" - and nothing wrong with that as long as he doesn't pretend it was all true - which he did.
"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." Samuel Johnson

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Postby sapphire » Tue, 17 Jan 2006 4:29 pm

I am with Wham on this one.
It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you.

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Postby Quasimodo » Tue, 17 Jan 2006 4:38 pm

Yup, with Sapphy and Wham on this one.
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Postby Wind In My Hair » Tue, 17 Jan 2006 6:07 pm

lots of books and movies are "based on a true story" which means there was some creative licence. guess this one is as well, and they should have passed it off as such.

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Postby Mary Hatch Bailey » Tue, 17 Jan 2006 9:02 pm

sapphire wrote:I am with Wham on this one.


Me too. Call it for what it is. Fiction is fiction and non-fiction should be unvarnished. My life would sure sound better with some embellishments.
But if we look at the 'greater good' side of the argument: if even one addict reaches out for help as a result of reading the book, then isn't that enough to justify a few lillies gilded?

Trouble is, most people are fools who belive the Da Vinci Code is real, and anything else they read in black and white.

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Postby Bubbles » Tue, 17 Jan 2006 11:20 pm

Apologies, I wasn't aware of the degree of fictionalization in his account, never having read it.

What I was trying to say is that a little 'filling out' is acceptable, i.e. how he felt at the time, small things he 'did' (read didn't do), such as drive faster, was kinder, felt differently to someone in the account, slightly altered accounts of how people greeted or thought of him....perhaps glorifying the weather, or changing it, or inventing lovely meals...etc.....but they must be small matters.... If these are disputed by the reader then it is forgiveable and can be put down to artistic licence...but large, verifiable (by others) events must be defacto...or, as you say, it is then a fictional account of a real event.

But, how many of the books we read, or more to the point, films we see are just that.....taken out of context best, or hugely changed and untrue at the least?

Take Braveheart......so very different to the film was the real event...yes, some happened, but there's a lot of porkies in there....

Jack the Ripper....no one knows who he was yet millions believe he was The Prince Regent...or his doctor...or his tutor...or a Jew...

And as Mary said, The DaVinci Code....ridiculously loosly based on some facts and lots of hearsay.

I still believe that there has to be a good amount of 'colouring' in all factual stories to make them saleable, (It's all about the sales after all....would this guy have written this for nothing?)...but it's the amount, and what you call your work afterwards which matters.

So, yes, you are right, this book should be 'Fictional Accounting'.....but I bet my bottom dollar that thousands if not millions will take it as the truth.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



Dylan Thomas.


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