So one of my favorite web sites, The Smoking Gun, has dug into the story behind the supposed memoir by James Frey called “A Million Little Pieces”. According to their findings, many (if not most) of the key events depicted in his book either never happened or are wildly modified and exaggerated. Now, most memoirs contain certain dramatic license, usually of this type:
Retorting to cads in a pithier manner than real life
Embellishing the details of what went on behind closed doors
Endlessly deep wells of altruism
Rose-colored memories of one’s bucolic childhood and/or gut-wrenching remembrances of childhood abuse
Rehab as a virtue and not the pathetic bottom rung of an egocentric, self-inflicted downward spiral
Invention of the ThighMaster
We, the reading public, expect a little fudging of the facts for better reading, because the truth is that we are all mostly mundane and the absolute, literal truth of the events of just about anyone’s life would make for dull reading.
However, Mr. Frey has gone beyond the expected bounds of dramatic license for non-fiction works. It appears that the truth of the matter is that he spent his life as a spoiled, coked-out frat boy, nothing more, nothing less, and then finally stopped snorting blow long enough to write a fiction book that contains some small aspects of his actual life surrounded by very huge imaginings and tall tales.
For example, he derides rehab as useless and encourages people to kick drugs by using the slogan “just hang on”. Perfect. That’s like telling a depressed person to “just cheer up”. If he was in fact addicted to drugs, and he managed to quit them on his own without treatment, that might be noteworthy. However, the fact that it worked for him does NOT make going cold-turkey with no support the most effective way for true addicts. I would not be surprised to find out that although Mr. Frey may have been an abuser of drugs, that he was not a true addict and so his blatherings about coping with drugs should be discarded, if for no other reason than they are based on a sample size of one (very impeachable source) and have not been proven to be repeatable.
In another case of melodramatic license, Mr. Frey twists the details of a tragedy from his high school days into a “Rebel Without a Cause” moment in his life. The facts are that two 17 year old girls were riding with some other guy in a car, and the guy raced a train to the crossing and lost. He was broadsided on the passenger side and both girls died. The driver survived, was prosecuted for his crimes and served time for the accident, due to his blood alcohol level. The main players in the story, interviewed by The Smoking Gun, have a vague recollection of who James Frey is, but also have a clear recollection that he was in no way involved in the incident.