Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: A Million Little Pieces

Would be book 19/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge...  Had I finished it.

Really disappointed.  I'm not ordinarily a quitter.  Ok, ok, scratch that.  I do tend to quit a lot of projects half-completed.  But usually I'll finish a book once I start it.  Something about tying up loose ends, even if I hate the story.  (Case-in-point: Safe Haven, Something Borrowed, etc.)  I HATE not finishing a book.  Really.  It bothers me.  But I just couldn't get through James Frey's A Million Little Pieces.

I knew going into this book about the controversy surrounding it.  I knew that it had been sold as a Memoir and then later determined to have been largely fabricated, which apparently pissed off one Oprah Winfrey who had given tons of praise to the book and it's author.  I was cool with all that, honestly.  I'm completely ok with a book being fiction.  I don't even care if somebody wants to call a book a memoir and have me believe it's true because generally that doesn't affect me in the slightest.  True or not, I read books for entertainment value.  So if the book's good, chances are that I'm going to enjoy it regardless of it's genre.

My problem with A Million Little Pieces is that I really don't care for James Frey's writing.  It's repetitive, it's overly look-at-me-I'm-such-a-bad-ass, and it's tiresome.  I would read and re-read the same paragraph over and over and scold myself for getting distracted, but then I'd realize that I hadn't been re-reading the same paragraphs.  In fact, he just repeats himself THAT often.  I can't handle that.  I'm ok with a little bit of repetition for emphasis but I am NOT ok with repeating the same sentence three times in each of four consecutive paragraphs.  That's just obnoxious.

Additionally, James Frey's writing irritated me in that he capitalized the first letter in almost every noun in the book.  And it's full of run-on sentences.  It's kind of a mess.  I mean, I understand that the subject matter is also a mess so maybe it fits, but I'm kind of anal and I can't handle this style of writing.

For reference, no copyright infringement intended, but here is a passage from A Million Little Pieces where you can see what I'm talking about:
I stand and I stare at her, just stare stare stare. Men walk past me and other women look at me and Lilly doesn't understand what I'm doing or why I'm doing it and she's blushing and it's beautiful. I stand there and I stare. I stare because I know where I am going I'm not going to see any beauty. They don't sell crack in Mansions or fancy Department Stores and you don't go to luxury Hotels or Country Clubs to smoke it. Strong, cheap liquor isn't served in five-star Restaurants or Champagne Bars and it isn't sold in gourmet Groceries or boutique Liquor Stores. I'm going to a horrible place in a horrible neighborhood run by horrible people providing product for the worst Society has to offer. There will be no beauty there, nothing even resembling beauty. There will be Dealers and Addicts and Criminals and Whores and Pimps and Killers and Slaves. There will be drugs and liquor and pipes and bottles and smoke and vomit and blood and human rot and human decay and human disintegration. I have spent much of my life in these places. When I leave here I will find one of them and I will stay there until I die. Before I do, however, I want one last look at something beautiful. I want one last look so that I have something to hold in my mind while I'm dying, so that when I take my last breath I will be able to think of something that will make me smile, so that in the midst of the horror I can hold on to some shred of humanity.
This book was just not my thing.  I really wanted it to be my thing - I wanted to love it - but it just wasn't.  I'm disappointed in myself for setting it down but I think that if I do force myself through the remaining two-hundred pages, I will probably become an alcoholic and a crack addict myself.  (Ok, that was poorly placed and distasteful humor.  Sorry!  But seriously.)

While I cannot commend James Frey enough for overcoming his addictions and changing his life, I'd give his book one star.  Am I allowed to count this towards the Reading Challenge?  I'm betting no.  Ok, fine.  Moving on.

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