Hello, and yes, I am completely aware that it’s been about 6 years since this book was popular and publicly scrutinized. In 2006, I was in college and had neglected reading for fun. But everyone knows Oprah and everyone knows that this book was highly fictionalized because of James Frey’s interview on Oprah, where she basically tore him apart for duping so many readers/Oprah viewers into believe his story.
I had no intention of reading this book, especially because it was deemed semi-fictional and because of the controversy.
I was wondering if I could actually enjoy something knowing that the main appeal, the memoir of a near-death addict fighting his demons, maybe doesn’t really exist. Still, when I found it at a Used Book section of a local flea market for a dollar, I figured I’d give it a shot.
This book took me 2-3 weeks to read, and I haven’t had that hard a time reading a book in a while. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t completely invest myself knowing that it was fake. I can’t necessarily say that’s true, because I am always reading fiction.
But I think I found myself critiquing and doubting ever little thing that happened, and that made the experience harder for me.
With straight fiction, I can go into the world of the book with an open mind and heart. With this one, I was skeptical, because I knew the controversy and disappointment that has surrounded it for years.
I think another reason I had a hard time reading the book was because it was written in a winding, no-quotation marks, spiraling sort of way. It takes a while for me to get into the brain, the dialect, or the different writing of an author. And it was the case with this book. Sometimes I couldn’t tell who was speaking, because Frey chose not to really differentiate with quotations or “he said/she said” and that was confusing.
But I think it added to the effect. Here is a man who’s mind and body is muddled with drugs and alcohol and shame and Fury. He isn’t going to have straight thoughts and he is going to be dominated by feelings and needs and fears that won’t come perfectly punctuated sentences.
I admired that after I got used to it.
I am blessed enough that I haven’t experienced addiction like this first-second-third hand. It was really hard to read the graphic details of an addiction to crack, to booze, and the horrible things that people do when being controlled by such powerful demons. But I think it was important to read that, because (even if James’ account isn’t 100% true) it is something that people go through. And it’s something people are lucky to overcome. Ultimately, the story is about shame, climbing your way up from rock bottom, about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption. Addicted or not, those are things we all go through/search for.
This book didn’t make it into my list of favorites. I’m glad I read it and gave it a shot, but I won’t go be coming back for another read. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that people who deal with addiction or a loss of hope can still find strength in reading this.
It’s still a tale of addiction and a tale of fighting for your life and for good, even if it’s a tall-tale.