Deep “Frey”d in Lies
During the summer of 2005, I read this book called A Million Little Pieces. I remember checking it out from the library after I had read an article in some magazine showing that it was one of Lindsay Lohan’s favorites. After the first couple of pages, which really didn’t interest me, I was glued. I stayed up all night to finish it. I suddenly became affixed to James Frey, the author (pronounced like fry), and his amazing story of drug-addiction, failure, and pain.
Upon the completion of the book, I wanted more. Luckily for me, My Friend Leonard was set to come out soon enough. As hard it is to say, I liked that book even more than A Million Little Pieces. It seemed a bit softer (even though I remember having to put down the book to literally sob during some of the parts), more hopeful, and more mature (and no, I am not just talking about the grammatical and syntax difference between the books, which are very obvious). It was more like A Million Little Pieces was the Alpha of Frey’s treacherous journey through recovery, and My Friend Leonard served as the Omega, which gave us closure.
I sort of told everyone about these two books. People would see me reading them all the time. If I wanted to make a Dr. Suess-esqe rhyme about my habits regarding these books, it would go a little something like this:
I would read it on a shuttle
Or at a bus-stop, while standing in a rain puddle
I would read it during dinner,
Or during a football game, without ever knowing the winner,
I would read it in class
Man, it’s amazing that I even passed.
I think you get it. Anyway I sort of felt like I discovered James Frey among my small-pocket of community (the funny thing is, I am so sure that book was more already “discovered” than I wanted to admit). And then it happened. He got Oprah’d.
I remember being so upset when his name was mentioned in mainstream after Oprah Winfrey added his book on her “book-club list.” It just made me sort of feel, well, mainstream. That sounds so petty, and I was aware of that, but for a while, I was the kind of person who hated being the norm. I wanted to know things about anything nobody else knew. So you can imagine how mortified I was to find my little under-ground secret exposed on the most-watched show in the universe.
During the interview, Oprah sure did have a lot of questions for Mr. Frey. She even brought up that one part of the book where he talks about having tooth surgery without any medication, since, as an addict, he wasn’t allowed any (red-flag right there! Denying anesthesia or pain medicines seems like an eight-amendment violation!). And Mr. Frey dug right into the nitty- gritty details about that incident. Everyone was so amazed. And then the book became some sort of national-hit, along with My Friend Leonard. Of course, I was miserable knowing these books were among the masses, but happy for my friend Frey.
Eventually, someone did the research. Apparently, Mr. Frey did not write a nonfiction story. He wrote a semi-fictional story. He was given anesthesia for the dental work. He lied. Everyone was mad at him. Oprah was mad because she had defended him. Fans were mad. I was mad because I hated that everyone had read his story and then hated him, and I thought that maybe if he had not been Oprah’d this would have never happened, and I could continue to believe in what I wouldn’t know was untrue. His lie was exposed and we all watched as he was confronted. It was sad to watch–it was like watching someone having a root canal without anesthesia.
In the aftermath, to make things right, the publishers were telling the fans that they would do a refund on his book. I’m not sure if a lot of people returned their books. I kept mine.
Everyone thought he was done. I’m sure I did, too. But then he came back. When the whole world didn’t have faith in him, he was able to have faith in himself. He wrote another book. He started his own publishing company. One of his lowest points (post-rehabilitation, anyway) was publically televised; he was virtually shunned in his profession, and he survived. He not only survived, but he flourished.
Since he was last seen on The Oprah Show during that confrontation episode, leaving with his tail between his legs, he has once again reappeared. The other night, I saw him speaking with Oprah. They both seemed very forgiving. They both seemed to have moved passed that time. I honestly never, ever thought that would happen.
Funny how things work out. What if he didn’t have the power to persevere? What if he let his worst get to his best—something, which I think a lot of us tend to do? He would have wasted his talents, wasted his life, and drowned in the mistakes he created. Instead, he took charge. He repented, and he made amends with what happened. He made right with himself. I think often times we can overlook that step, which is necessary to overcome anything. We have to forgive ourselves; we have to be able to confront the face in the mirror, and we have to know that the worst could be worse. Only then will we have the strength to believe against any doubt that is shed upon us.