08 September 2006

A Million Pieces

If a book has ever made you so mad you wanted to tear out the pages, well... here is your opportunity.

The controversy over the book "A Million Pieces" by James Frey caused the publishers DoubleDay and Anchor Books to take an action that was unheard of before - Refund the Books. Anybody who is not happy with thier purchase of the book can send the publishers page 163 or the coverpage torn from their copy and the publishing house will reimburse their $23.95


This book is categorized as non-fiction and is a memoir about James Frey's days when he was an alcoholic, drug addict and criminal. The book was so powerful and shell-shocking that it became an instant success.... to the extent that Oprah Winfrey selected this book for her book club. James Frey was hailed as "The man who kept Oprah awake at night". The book sold more than 3.5 million copies and was a runaway hit.

Later, after a six week investigation, it was proved that Frey had fabricated and embellished many of the incidents and memories in his book... just for the shock-value. The memoir was after all not completely true. Parts of it was fiction. Same of the readers who were in awe for the book felt they were defrauded.


I honestly didn't understand this part. What was the complaint again? That the memoir was not honest? What did the people who bought the book paid for? For the author's honesty or for the content of the book? If I want to pay for a book of facts, I would go buy Guinness Book of World Records, or a text book of Science or Mathematics. If I bought "A Million Pieces", it is because the book shocked me, impressed me and the something in the book appealed to some sense of mine. If these were the reasons, why should I feel so disappointed and cheated when I come to know that some of the incidents in the book are fictious ? I would rather feel happy that all that misery was not true, some of it was just invented to take the "craft of shocking" to higher levels.

I applauded the author in the first place for his forceful and power-packed style of writing, not for his drug-addiction or alcohol abuse or criminal record. Those just were the tools he used to convey a story. The expression and style was what the book sold for, not the facts or fabrications.

When people in Oprah's show and outside lauded the book as revelatory, emotional and nothing like they ever read before, the book served its purpose. How does it matter whether what's written in it is a fact or fiction?

I have a feeling some people are pissed at this book because it made them applaud and hail the guy for no good reason. You see, it's like this - "I cried for you and sympathized with you because you were an alcoholic criminal drug-addict. Now that I know you are none of the above but just a plain liar, I'm not THAT impressed with you anymore. How dare you make me cry at a pack of lies?"