A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front four teeth are gone. I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut. I open them and I look around and I’m in the back of a plane and there’s no one near me. I look at my clothes and my clothes are covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood. I reach for the call button and I find it and I push it and I wait and thirty seconds later an Attendant arrives.
How can I help you?
Where am I going?
You don’t know?
You’re going to Chicago, Sir.
How did I get here?
A Doctor and two men brought you on.
This is a story about addiction and recovery. It might not be a true story, but it’s an excellent one. This book was released as an autobiography until The Smoking Gun website exposed many of the central facts as fiction. There was a huge hullabaloo about the discovery owing to the book’s immense popularity. But who could read the opening lines quoted above and think they were reading a completely true story?
Knowing that this memoir is heavily fictionalized just makes me more impressed with the author’s writing. When you can write about having dental surgery without anesthesia and make me cringe while reading it – that’s talent. When you’re completely making that experience up – that’s genius.
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his four front teeth knocked out, his nose broken, and a hole through his cheek. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey’s acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.