Saturday, October 01, 2005

#50 A Million Little Pieces

Oprah, o wise sage, picked James Frey's A Million Little Pieces as her latest book club pick. A good friend in my office highly highly recommended the book to me, loving it so, so much that we launched into a fairly funny conversation about why we both enjoy reading addiction books. Maybe because it's an experience that's so richly human, the loss of total control in the face of something that utterly consumes them.

It's a richly addictive memoir, which I think was Frey's intent, to echo the feeling and rush of his experiences as an addict, and fully explore his time in rehab. The book is written in almost a pure form stream of consciousness, with little additional punctuation other than a basic periods and commas. It's a swift read, and one that takes you right into the fever of the moment. From the instant that James wakes up on a plane missing his four front teeth, with two black eyes, a whole in his cheek and broken nose not knowing where he's going or where he's coming from, you get the feeling that it's not your typical memoir. It's an interesting choice from Oprah, who might be reeling from the lack of support her last choice failed to garner (Summer of Faulkner, wha?).

It's funny how the books in your life start to create clusters, or patterns, as you read through them. I've read three solid books about addiction this year: The Hungry Years by William Leith, Dry by Augusten Burroughs, and now A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. All three by men, all three detailing a deep and private part of their lives that forced them to change, and come out extremely different on the other end. Surprisingly interesting books whose authors have next to nothing in common except their shared experience with some form of addiction (food for Leith, alcohol for Burroughs, and drugs and alcohol for Frey).

I would highly recommend all three books, but maybe not to read them in succession for fear of falling off the high cliff of very serious topics into a pit of despair over your own addictions, be they as slight as my own addiction to sugar or more serious. All three make you think, and more importantly, make you feel.

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