Breaking boundaries in fictional memoir: James Frey’s ‘A Million Little Pieces

Alice Anderson Bonner

Propelled by the furore that surrounded James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, this dissertation is a wide-reaching exploration into the changing nature of the memoir. Through detailed textual analysis, it highlights the ways Frey transgressed the accepted boundaries of the genre, using this as a springboard into a broader discussion about the communication of personal truth through narrative.



‘I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal.”[1]

Following a long and heavy addiction to drugs and alcohol, during which he had several serious altercations with the law, James Frey explored this part of his life through writing A Million Little Pieces. Published in April 2003, there were mixed reviews to the memoir, but in September 2005, it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her notable Book Club, leading to the book’s bestseller status.

However, as H.P. Abbott writes, the book’s ‘fall from grace was as spectacular as its rise’[2]. An international controversy began on 8 January 2006, when The Smoking Gun – a website renowned for posting exclusive information regarding celebrities and other gossip – published ‘A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey’s Fiction Addiction’. In this article, it became apparent that Frey had ‘wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms and status as an outlaw’[3]. Within only four days, an author’s note was from then on included in new copies of the book, in which Frey openly confesses to making alterations to his past.[4] After several infamous television appearances, a legal settlement was reached on 12 September 2006 between Frey and the publishing group Random House, owners of the imprint Doubleday who published the ‘memoir’ in the US; readers were offered a refund if they felt cheated or defrauded by the revelation that what they read was actually fiction.

This is not the first scandalous case where an author has been caught testing the fine line between fiction and memoir, and the issue has been widely debated. It begins when we think about the term ‘memoir’ itself, which derives from the French word ‘mémoire’, or ‘memory’. The recollection of the past can be difficult, as memory is not always reliable. Therefore, for example, when a memoir is read by the author’s family or friends, different versions of events may emerge; it is hard to identify who said or did what when the conversation or event happened months, years or even decades before.

Problems of genre also arise in the consideration of memoir. Some feel that there are definitive boundaries that cannot be crossed, that you tell the whole truth or nothing at all; others believe that there is room for manoeuvre and imperfections when reflecting on the past. The former group may prefer books to be defined within particular, sometimes oppositional, categories: fiction and non-fiction; biography and autobiography; novel and memoir. The latter accept hybrid forms of literature because, as G. T. Couser admits in his key introduction to memoir, ‘many narratives […] don’t fit neatly into any single one [genre]’[5]. For example, the terms ‘creative’ or ‘literary non-fiction’ have recently been coined to describe such texts that combine genres, like A Million Little Pieces. The five authors that Sarah Anne Johnson interviews question the usage of fictional techniques in memoirs, a discussion that stems from the Frey controversy[6]. Frey’s repetitious, punctuation-less and unconventional writing style is more suited to fictional novels, whereas the factual details of the text – of which there are many, despite the admitted discrepancies - belong to memoir.

These inconsistencies are identified in chapter one of this dissertation. I will discuss the aspects of the book that were embroidered as revealed by The Smoking Gunreport, notably the claims Frey makes in the book over being arrested and incarcerated in jail, and the single claim he makes regarding the death of Michelle, a childhood friend. In comparing the facts in the report to the appropriate sections of the book, I will analyse parts of Frey’s text in order to create a ‘real’ timeline of events.

Chapter two will deal with the genre of memoir, and the aforementioned line between fact and fiction. Questions of memoir are relevant for the purposes of this essay; before coming to a conclusion on Frey’s text, we need to explore the various definitions and viewpoints of memoir. By looking at the boundaries for writers, memoirists and Frey himself, I will pinpoint the alternatives to deception, or what Frey could have done instead. Through further text analysis, I will ascertain why we should not devalue his story.

The final chapter of this paper focuses on the reception of A Million Little Pieces and responses to Frey. I will briefly explore Reader Response theory and the New Journalism movement as well as analysing the different forms of meaning in the text. Through reading newspaper articles, reviews and interviews with the author, I determined Frey’s belief that A Million Little Pieces was received differently in the UK to the US, and this is something I will investigate before addressing Frey’s style of writing. I am in favour of Frey and his writing, and I hope that by the time this dissertation is concluded my line of argument will be clear and valid.

Chapter One

‘In certain cases, things were toned up. In certain cases, things were toned down.’[7]

On 4 January 2006 – almost three years after A Million Little Pieces was published and three months after it had been chosen for Oprah’s Book Club – an article began circulating on the internet. The website The Smoking Gun announced that much of Frey’s ‘memoir’ was in fact a lie, using ‘[p]olice reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources’ as evidence.[8] Essentially, The Smoking Gun is a site for gossip; celebrity mug shots, band rider requests and random crime stories are what attract people to the website. What makes it slightly different to other similar pages is the fact that it ‘guarantee[s] everything here is 100% authentic’ through providing documents as evidence. [9] This makes it harder for the celebrity or individual in question to deny what The Smoking Gun publishes.

After a reported six-week enquiry into Frey’s past, The Smoking Gun article revealed that several of the claims of criminality Frey makes about himself are simply not true. In A Million Little Pieces, Frey states he has been arrested twelve or thirteen times for ‘all kinds of shit’ (p. 35) and that he is wanted in Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina due to outstanding charges. Suspicions were raised when those behind The Smoking Gun tried to unearth one of the mug shots behind these arrests for their notorious collection. There are three main incidents concerning the criminal charges in the three aforementioned states, and additional evidence regarding the death of Michelle, a childhood friend. In each of these cases, it appears that what Frey leads us to believe is false.

The first debated issue in A Million Little Pieces, as discovered by The Smoking Gun, deals with an incident during Frey’s time in high school. The author explains how, shortly after moving from a city to a small town, twelve-year old Frey did not fit in at school and soon gained a negative reputation. In spite of this, several months later, he formed an unlikely friendship with a popular cheerleader, Michelle: ‘I don’t know why she wanted to be my friend, but she did […]. I didn’t ask her to or want her to, but she became my friend, and that was more than anyone else was willing to do’ (p. 95).

However, sometime during the eighth grade – Frey would have been about thirteen or fourteen by this point – their relationship tragically ended. Frey describes how Michelle was asked out on a date, but because her parents would not have allowed it, she lied to them and told them she was going to the cinema with Frey. He followed through with this, watching the film ‘with a pint of whiskey’ (p. 96); whereas Michelle went on the date with her ‘football Hero’ (p. 96). Sadly, in a race to beat an oncoming train over the tracks, the boy’s car was hit and Michelle was killed. Frey describes how everyone sympathised with the unhurt boy, and insists that he was blamed by her parents and questioned by the police. Frey’s description of Michelle, the boy and his own self-presentation provides the audience with a spectrum of stereotypes. Frey suggests that his friendship with Michelle is extraordinary, portraying her as the conventional cheerleader-next-door and himself as the ‘bad boy’ who drinks in public cinemas. In contrast, the boy who survived the accident is juxtaposed against the anti-heroic Frey.

However, The Smoking Gun begs to differ regarding Frey’s account. Firstly, they spoke to his classmate Paul Santarlas who called Frey ‘a “reasonably popular guy in high school” who “wasn’t an outcast”’[10], which goes against Frey’s self-presentation. He also claimed that he never noticed any extreme behaviour, as Frey has described, calling the author ‘a “normal guy”’[11].

There are also differences between Frey’s representation of Michelle’s death and what official reports say. The actual date of the accident is 15 November 1986, which puts Frey in the eleventh grade as opposed to the eighth; The Smoking Gunclassifies Michelle, or Melissa Sanders to use her real name, as being a high school senior, a grade above Frey. The main alteration that Frey makes is the fact that in reality, there were three passengers in the car that night; Dean Sperlik was the driver of the vehicle, whilst Melissa and a second girl, Jane Hall – who was also killed in the crash – were in the car too. In addition, Frey’s apparent involvement with Melissa’s death is overlooked when looking at the police report of the accident, as his name does not feature in it at all. Furthermore, The Smoking Gun spoke with Melissa’s parents, who believe that ‘Frey created a meaningful relationship with their daughter where […] one did not exist’;[12] both Marianne and Bill Sanders do not recall hearing Frey’s name linked with Melissa’s death. Melissa’s mother can remember meeting him twice and her father clearly states in an email exchange, ‘…I have never met Mr. Frey and I never drove him anywhere…’.[13]

The second issue to be discussed occurred in Michigan and is identified in A Million Little Pieces when Frey lists his drinking and drug history: ‘Got first DUI. Blew a .36, and set a County Record. Went to Jail for a week’ (pp. 111-2). The Smoking Gunreviewed police and court records in Frey’s hometown of St. Joseph, Michigan and the surrounding areas to find one case for Frey, aged 19 at the time. In reality, whilst he was arrested for drunk driving, he only recorded a .21 and .20 on breathalyser tests. As can be seen from the mug shot from this incident, Frey had chicken pox and as a result, was not wanted in jail near other detainees.[14] The result of this arrest was a $305 fine, ‘[n]o jail, no framed certificate for setting the Berrien County Blood Alcohol Content record’.[15]

Following this, in early 1992, Frey was arrested in Ohio whilst he was a student at Denison University. In the book, Frey describes how he was approached by policemen and an FBI agent, who informed him they were in the process of searching his house for drugs and possessed a warrant to ask him questions at the police station. Frey was escorted there, mocking them throughout the journey: ‘I sang the National Anthem at the top of my lungs, and in between renditions, asked the Cops when we were stopping for pie’ (p. 276). After being interrogated, the search team returned having found nothing, and Frey was released.

However, a different story is told in the article. The website located documents from the Granville police department that seem to loosely match Frey’s version of events; information is provided on a small-scale student drug investigation ran by David Baer, who used to be a sergeant in the department. The report, which can be found on The Smoking Gun’s website, only identifies Frey’s name once as being one of eight students who was believed to be ‘selling small amounts of cocaine’[16]. There is no mention of Frey being questioned at all, and Baer clearly states that he has never worked on a drug case alongside the FBI. Therefore, The Smoking Guncompletely disregards Frey’s claims regarding this arrest too.

Frey’s description of his second arrest in Ohio is depicted like this: after splitting up with his girlfriend from college as a result of his alcohol- and drug-fuelled problems, Frey mistakenly went out to find her again whilst drunk and under the influence of drugs. Instead of watching the road, he was staring at her outside a bar, which led to him hitting a policeman with his car. He gave them trouble when they attempted to get him out of the vehicle:

I stayed in Jail that night and I was arraigned the next morning of Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Assaulting an Officer of the Law, Felony DUI, Disturbing the Peace, Resisting Arrest, Driving Without a License, Driving Without Insurance, Attempted Incitement of a Riot, Possession of a Narcotic with Intent to Distribute and Felony Mayhem […]. As far as I know, I am still wanted on all the charges. (p. 296)

Here, Frey capitalises particular words, such as ‘Jail’ to emphasise his delinquency; his use of asyndetic listing also underlines the extent of Frey’s apparent criminality. By naming them all so specifically and using the simple past tense, readers are more than likely to take his statements as fact, trusting and believing that he is genuine. However, the phrase ‘As far as I know’ hints at his unreliability and may be indicative of the untruths that are later revealed.

While in rehab, Frey has to face up to the repercussions of his actions, learning that Ohio prosecutors will agree to a minimum of three years in a state prison, the thought of which terrifies Frey. However, the case is resolved later in A Million Little Pieces, when the term is reduced to three to six months in a county jail. Frey believes that this result is down to two patients he has met at the treatment facility. The first of these is his close friend Leonard, an alcoholic and drug addict, who is described as ‘the West Coast Director of a large Italian Finance Firm’ (p. 283), although comments are made throughout the text that imply that Leonard is actually involved in organised crime; the second of Frey’s colleagues is his roommate Miles, an alcoholic judge in New Orleans. The combination of Leonard’s extensive network and Miles’ authoritative position within the law allows for them to change, influence and fix Frey’s jail sentence. The opening of My Friend Leonard, the sequel to A Million Little Pieces, deals with his time in prison before going out into the world, hopefully as a sober man.

What The Smoking Gun discovered about this arrest did not comply with Frey’s narrative. After searching for records related to the Ohio arrest in the county of Licking, no felony cases were located in the author’s name; only a single traffic ticket was found for November 1990, but the matter was closed after Frey paid a fine. During an interview at a later date, Frey admitted to The Smoking Gun that he had legally destroyed documents and court records related to the event in Ohio, in order to ‘put up walls as much as [he] possibly could, frankly, to avoid situations like this’[17].

However, an old mug shot and incident report was found after contacting the police department of Granville, the village where Denison University is situated. Through reading this report and speaking to the officer who made the arrest in October 1992, The Smoking Gun article identifies the following: Frey did not hit the policeman with his car; he was not that difficult to deal with; there were no drug charges; and his time in jail was only a matter of hours. In fact, an attorney confirms that ‘[t]here is no such charge as felony mayhem’, and whilst the author claims to have been charged with felony DUI on this occasion in 1992, this was a count that did not exist until 1996 and after.[18]

In a confession to his parents in A Million Little Pieces, Frey admits to being arrested again after completing college and living in Paris for a short while:

When I came back to the States and I went down to North Carolina, I started smoking crack again […]. I don’t remember much of what I did down there because I was so fucked up all the time, but I know I got arrested again. I also know I got arrested in Michigan, though I have no idea what I was doing in Michigan. I skipped Bail in both places, so I guess I’m wanted there as well. (p. 297)

Here, the shift between veracious and hesitant comments begins to show the cracks in Frey’s narrative. The use of the simple past tense and declarative sentences encourage the reader to believe that what he is describing is a fact; Frey smoked crack and was arrested. However, tentative phrases such as ‘I have no idea’ and ‘I guess’ provide grounds for doubt on the reader’s behalf. The Smoking Guninvestigated both of these arrests, and records showed no outstanding warrants or cases for Frey. Furthermore, in a conversation between both parties, Frey played down these arrests, conceding that ‘neither case involved narcotics possession, as claimed in “A Million Little Pieces”’.[19]

Whilst it is essentially a gossip site, The Smoking Gun has provided readers with substantial evidence, so to speak, in the form of legal documents and police reports, proving Frey has falsely described particular events. Publishing A Million Little Pieces as a memoir without acknowledging any edits or embellishments permits readers to have a strong, negative reaction if revelations, such as the ones in the article, are made.

Ultimately, it cannot be denied that Frey made considerable changes in his book to real events, despite advertising the book as a memoir. However, it should be noted that the article emphasises the criminal discrepancies of the book but does not mention any other inconsistencies. The anonymous authors of the article question the existence of ‘improbable characters—like the colorful mafioso Leonard and the tragic crack whore Lilly’,[20] but do not provide any real indication as to why they might think this is the case. This doubt clearly stems from the fact that Frey embellished parts of his story, and of course it is possible that if Frey has exaggerated some aspects of the text, he may have embroidered others that have not been uncovered yet; on the other hand, I would query whether it is right to assume such a thing. If the website is keen to provide documental proof for such stories, arguably, they should supply facts for all aspects of their argument instead of speculatively mistrusting him. In the next chapter, the genre of memoir will be examined in both a traditional and a more modern sense, as it appears that the line between what is fact and what is fiction has recently become blurry, thanks to cases like Frey’s.

Chapter Two

‘Time makes stories of us all; history rewrites us […]. But we also make stories of ourselves. We are our own fictions even if most of the time we do not wish to understand ourselves in this way.’ [21]

In this instance, Frey rewrote his own history in the form of A Million Little Pieces. He made changes ‘in order to serve what I felt was the greater purpose of the book’, and to portray himself as ‘tougher and more daring and more aggressive than in reality’.[22] The revelation, that Frey’s ‘memoir’ was actually a fiction, made the literary world and readers question the genre itself and the notions of fact and fiction. This chapter will explore this with reference to critics, memoirists and comments made by Frey himself on this highly debated issue.

For some, the terms ‘autobiography’ and ‘memoir’ may be used interchangeably; however, Couser asserts that the main difference between the two is the time scale they explore. Autobiography is usually a ‘full-life’ text, and depicts an arc from birth until the present; memoir, on the other hand, is a ‘single-experience’ narrative, and explores a particular aspect or fragment of a life. Therefore, Frey’s text was accepted as a memoir, as it portrays his recovery from alcoholism and addiction. The genre’s absolute definition varies from person to person, as will be discussed later on in the chapter, but it is safe to say most would agree that ultimately a memoir is a piece of writing concerning an individual’s experience, as recollected by memory.

In the past, memoir has been deemed inferior to autobiography, perhaps because the latter was deemed more popular. Couser describes how memoir was considered minor, sub-literary, shallow and marginal; in contrast, autobiography was established as major, literary, deep and canonical. These juxtapositions have now faded because ‘[w]e have not experienced an autobiography boom, but a memoir boom’.[23] There are now more stories than ever to publish, for example, the themes of gender, sexuality and race are considered in writing, not to mention narratives of child abuse, addiction and celebrity confession.[24]

There are, of course, exceptions to this as genres cross over and interlink with each other; they are ‘hybrid, dynamic, malleable’. [25] For memoir in particular, there is the Western inclination to write using novelistic techniques and the undesirable consequences that this can have: ‘at some point the creative impulse may compromise, or even negate, a narrative’s nonfiction status’.[26] The A Million Little Pieces controversy is the perfect example of this; many readers believed the content of Frey’s text, as it was published and advertised as a memoir, and this is why they then felt betrayed having learnt that not all of it was true. Yet, not all readers turned their backs on Frey; whilst some understandably felt like they had been lied to, others, including myself, found it easier to forgive his mistakes. Reasons behind this will be examined later on.

As previously stated, the boundaries regarding what is and is not acceptable in memoir writing differ for each reader. Couser writes that the conventions are indeed blurred, that they are more like ‘implicit agreements’ and to make them explicit would be a great shame.[27] However, Leigh Gilmore questions the limits of fact and fiction in literature: ‘[w]here does autobiography end and fiction begin?’.[28]

In responding to the Frey scandal, Johnson interviewed five writers who all had various opinions on the rules of the genre. Susan Cheever allows for fictional techniques in memoir but directs the author towards the reader-writer contract: ‘[t]he promise the writer makes—implicitly or explicitly—defin[ing] what will come afterward’.[29] Maria Flook argues that the content of a memoir should be real and true, but authors are free to tell a story however they want. She also states that ‘[a] successful memoir needs no disclaimers. Readers can feel a true voice’.[30]Rick Moody and William Zinsser both agree that there should be no traces of fiction in memoirs, as this will only make the text less credible, and whilst Roy Peter Clark concurs with them personally, he permits authors to use any technique, as long as the reader is told. In terms of Frey, much of what these literary figures debate can be applied to his text. Moody, Zinsser and Clark clearly condemn Frey’s choices, as he invented and embroidered his text. Similarly, it seems that Cheever would believe that Frey broke this pact with his readers, as when his book was first published there was no preface to tell the reader of his embellishments. However, Flook’s comment on disclaimers provides support for Frey, as she would, assumingly, argue that Frey’s authorial voice would be truthful enough, a statement I strongly agree with. This is something to be discussed in chapter three.

Reflecting on this further, Clark establishes a number of standards that memoirs must follow. For example, he creates two sub-divisions of the genre to mirror the changing limits. Firstly, he introduces what he calls ‘Non-fiction Memoir’, in which ‘no one brags he was in jail for three months if it was only three hours’;[31] books that come under this category contain no made-up elements and remain in the tradition of memoir. Clark names the second group ‘Based on a True Story’ which is relatively self-explanatory. These are texts that are loosely created out of real events that have happened, but there is literary exaggeration; Frey’s text would fall into this more modern sub-genre. Similarly, Fern Kupfer will accept certain ‘lies’ in memoir writing, such as ‘little white lies’ regarding small details or the construction of the story, affirming that ‘[t]rue, false, fiction, nonfiction, journalism – it all ends up as fiction in the end’.[32]

It is clear that defining and setting the limits on memoir is a difficult task, not least because there is a plethora of viewpoints to consider. To make matters more complicated, the genre of memoir has been associated with many other terms to describe similar types of writing. For example, we have ‘creative non-fiction’, [33]‘narrative nonfiction […], literary journalism, new journalism […], personal essay, or lyric essay’.[34] Couser explores the notion of ‘life narrative’ which can include the following, unconventional forms of narrative: graphic memoirs, CVs, art and painting, blogs, social media such as Facebook, diaries and photo albums. These methods all fall under the umbrella of life writing or narrative, as they each reflect on the past to tell some kind of story. In addition, Stephen Colbert coined the term ‘truthiness’, which is defined as ‘the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true’.[35] It was named Word of the Year in 2006, the year of the Frey scandal, by both the American Dialect Society and Merriam-Webster. The term identifies the type of truth Frey was perhaps most concerned with in A Million Little Pieces. Since the controversy arose in January 2006, the ‘”emotional truth”’[36] has been repeatedly discussed, and it has been questioned what this is worth compared to the concrete reality. Again, I direct to chapter three for further consideration on this matter.

Many have commented on what Frey could have done to have saved himself a lot of trouble. Couser lists a number of options Frey had as alternatives to deception: he could have published it as fiction instead of labelling it as memoir; he could have acknowledged the embellishments he made; simplest of all, he could have kept to the facts and not made any exaggerations.[37] This is true, but I personally do not agree with much of Couser’s argument. He believes that in making changes to the length of time he was in jail, Frey ‘has exceeded most readers’ tolerance’.[38]However, whilst some readers did feel deceived, Couser cannot write on the behalf of the majority of readers, especially when he is claiming they are no longer tolerant of Frey when this is only partly true; in fact as of May 2008, after offended readers were offered a refund, less than 2000 copies had been returned.[39]

He also states that the exposure of Frey’s fabrications means that the book ‘cannot retain its force’.[40] However, although the text may technically no longer be considered as a memoir, the writing is still convincing, and Frey is an experimental and powerful writer. He has a desire to reach the reader on an emotional level: ‘If I am in pain, I want the reader to be in pain. If I feel joy, I want the reader to feel joy. If I feel sick, I want to make the reader sick’.[41] For example, there is a scene in A Million Little Pieces that has been doubted, in addition to the contentious issues debated in chapter one. [42] Frey learns that he requires dental treatment, including two root canal surgeries. Since he is a rehab patient, he is apparently not able to receive anaesthetic, and therefore the operation he has to have is excruciatingly painful:

the thick blue nylon straps are cutting my flesh and it fucking hurts and my face is on fire and the veins in my neck want to explode and my brain is white and it is melting and it fucking hurts. There is a drill in my mouth. My brain is white and it feels as if it’s fucking melting. I cannot breathe. Agony. (p. 81-2)

Frey’s emotions are mirrored in his profanities; throughout the text he curses to release particular feelings, such as irritation, fear and discomfort. The reader can feel this as he describes the experience, such as when he is receiving painful dental treatment in the above quotation; his use of repetition only underlines this. Furthermore, the conflict between long, syndetic sentences and short, clipped phrases builds up tension in this scene. Frey moves between extreme physical distress and an almost dreamlike space, where he ‘fade[s] into a state of white consciousness where [he is] no longer directly connected to what is being done to [him]’ (p. 82).

This is very similar to his depictions of his dreams of using drugs: ‘Hot peppermint honey mixed with napalm followed by a rush a thousandfold stronger than the purest powder, a thousandfold more dangerous’ (p. 55). The reader knows it is illegal to take drugs, but Frey wants us to understand what draws people to taking them, or to use his words, the ‘joy’ of drug-taking.[43] Frey describes the senses involved in taking crack cocaine, what it tastes and feels like, to encourage the reader to feel this experience too; the superlatives ‘purest’ and ‘more’ serve to highlight this. Similarly, after checking into the clinic, he illustrates how the initial detoxification process feels, writing ‘[t]he bugs crawl onto my skin and they start biting me and I try to kill them. I claw at my skin, tear at my hair, start biting myself’ (p. 13). Here, the strong, animalistic verbs may frighten readers who are unfamiliar with such an experience, but other addicts may relate to this description. Whilst he did elaborate certain aspects of the book, Frey is a recovering alcoholic and addict and, therefore, scenes like these cannot be denied of truth. Not only might he wish to inspire fellow addicts, he may be aiming to communicate the experience of being addicted to drugs to non-addicts.

Frey is being literal when he says he intends for the reader to feel sick when he does, as he recounts bouts of vomiting as he suffers withdrawal symptoms. He writes, ‘I grab the sides of the toilet and I wait […]. My body lurches and I close my eyes and I lean forward […]. It gets stuck in my throat, in my nostrils’ (p. 24). Again, Frey employs emotive verbs such as ‘grab’, ‘lurches’ and ‘stuck’ to intensify and add force to the situation. His use of syndetic sentences slows the reader down, postponing the physical action of being sick which the reader is most likely familiar with. On the other hand, Frey’s portrayal of the ‘[b]lood and bile and chunks of [his] stomach’ is an aftereffect that the reader or a non-addict has, assumingly, never been subject to before (p. 24). This produces an uncomfortable tone, one that is hard to read and can be quite off-putting. However, it may provide an accurate insight into the recovery of a drug addict, and therefore Frey’s writing intentions have been achieved.

Finally, Bradley writes about the author’s fight to accept their identity and past. If we take away issues of embellishment and truth, he ultimately believes that

most of the attention should be paid to the authors’ struggles to make sense of themselves and their situations. Thus, if there’s a villain in [his] creative nonfiction, it’s got to be [him] – no one else’s weakness or cruelty is ever as apparent to [him] as [his] own.[44]

In the book, Frey seems to have the exact same attitude. Shortly after arriving at the treatment facility, he takes the MMPI-2 test which allows for professionals to gain an overview of an individual’s psychological wellbeing (p. 174). It is made up of 567 statements that Frey must answer ‘true’ or ‘false’ to. For example, he answers in the negative to the statement ‘I think my problems are caused by others’ (p. 50) and clearly takes responsibility for his actions.

Another example is the change in Frey’s distant relationship with his parents. For most of the book, although he has always acknowledged his accountability in his addictions, Frey pushes his mother and father away; he feels uncomfortable around them, even during moments of affection such as when they hug. Frey attributes this to what he calls the Fury, the personification of the ‘rage, anger, extreme pain’ (p. 360) that he has known and felt towards his parents his whole life. He writes that drugs and alcohol were a way to kill the Fury, although they never did as ‘it would always come back, usually stronger, and that would require more and stronger substances to kill it’ (p. 360). He does not blame his parents for it though, and he admits it was his decision to ‘take a drink or snort a line or take a hit from a pipe or get arrested’ (p. 361); in this last quote, Frey uses the conjunction ‘or’ as he does with other syndetic structures to stress his past wrongdoings. Despite the fact that he has made mistakes, essentially he takes full responsibility for them and does not wish for his parents to blame themselves.

Although at first he does not wish them to visit, the Frey family enrol in the facility’s Family Program and begin to work their way through Frey’s issues together. Frey learns, and writes:

People in here, People everywhere, they all want to take their own problems, usually created by themselves, and try to pass them off on someone or something else. I know my Mother and Father did the best they could and gave me the best they could and loved me the best the best they could and if anything, they are victims of me. (p. 365)

By capitalising words such as ‘People’, ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’, Frey uses his own personal experience to generalise the situation so it can be applied to anyone; the capitalisation may aid the reader’s identification to the text. Frey refuses to let anyone else feel guilty over his past but himself. He knows what he has done and the impact of his addictions on his family and friends, but by accepting his weaknesses ‘with honor and dignity’, he begins the process of ‘getting better’ (p. 365).

Bradley sums up my argument perfectly in writing that ‘perhaps, the anger that Frey inspired might be a little excessive’.[45] As touched on in chapter one, whilst embellishments were made to certain aspects of A Million Little Pieces, the majority of the book stems from real events; Frey is an alcoholic and a drug addict who overcame his addictions in rehab, and that is ‘the central message of the book’[46]; the incidents that The Smoking Gun describe are not essential to the overall story. Frey actually offers us a page count of debated events, 18 out of 432, or less than 5% of the whole book.[47] Added to this is the relatively low number of refunds given to upset readers, as previously discussed, and furthermore, despite the controversy, copies of A Million Little Pieces today are still placed under the memoir category; my edition, printed post-debate, is rather amusingly listed as a memoir on the back cover.

Therefore, whilst there was much discussion over the book, Frey’s status as an author has remained relatively stable. He is still writing today, and even plays on his notoriety. In his last two books, Bright Shiny Morning and The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, he mixes fact and fiction, using his past and the events of 2006 to confuse and interest people; the former even contains a disclaimer at the start of the book: ‘Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable’; this is to be discussed in the conclusion of this paper. It would have been easier for Frey to have done something similar to this example, and notified his readers that his ‘memoir’ was not entirely factual, but he didn’t: ‘I was in rehab. I am a drug addict. I am an alcoholic. I embellished. I exaggerated’.[48] In true Frey style, he has accepted his mistakes and allowed them to be a part of his life. If we take away the label of memoir, the question of ‘whose fault was it?’, we find ourselves left with a man who has recovered from and written about a very difficult experience. Note that throughout this dissertation I have been referring to A Million Little Pieces as a ‘book’; essentially, that is all it is. As Frey suggests, ‘The point of what [he does] is that it doesn't really matter what a book or a story is as long it moves you, informs you, challenges you, entertains you, or changes you’.[49]

Chapter Three

‘All the old traditions are exhausted, and no new one is yet established. All bets are off!’ [50]

Despite its success after being chosen for Oprah’s book club, the initial reception ofA Million Little Pieces in 2003 was relatively mixed. Kristine Huntley ironically called it ‘[s]tarkly honest’,[51] whereas John Dolan considered the book ‘the worst thing [he’d] ever read’.[52] Some even doubted the book’s veracity several years beforeThe Smoking Gun revealed Frey’s elaborations. Laura Miller states that ‘the cinematic quality of some of Frey’s exploits makes you wonder whether the facts in this memoir have been enhanced.’ However, she also comments on ‘the propulsive energy’ in the book, which supports my argument that Frey’s writing surmounts the exaggerated events.[53]

Some readers were appalled to learn of these inconsistencies whereas others were not as upset. It seems that this may be due to the subjectivity surrounding what an individual reader considers the most important quality in a book; those who were offended by Frey’s actions appeared to deem the accuracy of a text as the most crucial attribute, while others potentially could believe that the most significant part is the standard of writing, although this then raises the difficulty in determining and measuring the quality of a book.

This is an issue that certain critics tackled through the theory of Reader Response, a mode of criticism that reached its high point in the 1980s. Reader Response theory questions where the meaning of a text is situated, and who the maker of this meaning is. Andrew Bennett, summarising the beliefs of several academics, argues that that there are three key roles in the process of reading – the text, the author and the reader – and each critic places importance on different parts. For example, Norman Holland focuses on the reader and their individual reading patterns, whereas Michael Riffaterre uses a structuralist approach, asserting that the text controls the meaning. In contrast, Wolfgang Iser contemplates the relationship between reader and text, and reflects on ‘the interactive space of meaning’.[54] I would argue that it is a combination of these three central roles that determines the comprehension of meaning; an author will create a text and the reader will interpret a particular meaning. It might be the case that there is one intended meaning or several ways of understanding a piece of writing, and it is this ‘”impossibility” of reading’[55] that leads to multiple layers of analysis.

In A Million Little Pieces, there are several types of inferred meaning. Taking the repeated phrase ‘I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal’ (p. 111), some might argue that this can only have valid meaning if it is true. These claims are presented as fact in a ‘memoir’, but only the first two are completely factual; Frey’s assertion that he is a criminal is a half-truth, because although Frey did commit offences, he exaggerated the nature of such events, as revealed by The Smoking Gun. Therefore, the reader is left to question whether such embellishments take away from the meaning of the text as a whole. As discussed in the previous chapter, I strongly argue that there are examples in A Million Little Pieces that present other valuable types of meaning that Frey may have prioritised over factual meaning. For example, the presentation of Frey’s romantic relationship with Lilly, a fellow patient, offers the reader an emotional meaning:

She kisses down my cheek to the edge of my mouth it responds. It says come and we meet. Our open mouths meet. Fast and slow alternating hard and soft pressing and receiving seeking and being sought. Loving and being loved. (p. 324)

Frey chooses his words very carefully, as if he is writing a poem. Like other passages, the contrast between long and short sentences mirrors the tense atmosphere in this scene; both Frey and Lilly wish to consummate their relationship, but never do due to their inhibitions. The use of the present continuous tense in the penultimate sentence evokes a sense of immediacy or almost urgency; the couple must be together now. In addition, Frey’s utilisation of oppositional words – ‘[f]ast and slow’, ‘hard and soft’ – and presenting reciprocating verbs – ‘seeking and being sought’, ‘[l]oving and being loved’ – help to represent the action of this passage. The sensory and lyrical language encourages the reader to feel and identify with James and Lilly’s passion for each other; in doing so, a personal connection with the characters is formed and from this, romantic meaning is created.

Likewise, Frey refers to the importance of family as he and his parents begin to repair their relationship towards the end of A Million Little Pieces. In an emotional last session, Frey’s parents speak to James about the process of getting better. His father discusses the difficulty of ‘being a Father to a Son who was essentially a Stranger’ and delights in ‘the feeling that [he has] gotten [his] Son back’ (p. 388); Frey’s mother believes that ‘there is a connection between [them] now, like [they] are actually a Family’ (p. 389). The capitalisation and repetition of terms such as ‘Son’, ‘Mother’, ‘Father’ and ‘Family’ denotes their significance and is reflective of Frey’s new values. In juxtaposing them against the word ‘Stranger’, this displays the change Frey has undergone; highlighting the fact he is recovering and progressing. Here, the reader can connect to the familial meaning in the text in addition to valuing the process of recovery.

Additionally, there is the implication that Frey values books and reading, which suggests that there is a final theme or type of meaning that can be analysed. He explains how he has ‘always read voraciously’ and is ‘drawn to the books’ in the drug facility’s mini-library (p. 89). During his stay at the treatment centre, he begins to read a small, Chinese book called ‘the Tao te Ching’, which is comprised of 81 short poems. Despite his initial reaction to the book – ‘I’ve always grouped books like such as this in a category with crap like Astrology, Aromatherapy, Crystalology...’ (p. 211) – he eventually finds solace in the words, writing that

[t]he words and the words together and the meaning and the context are simple so simple and basic so basic and true and that is all that matters true. They speak to me, make sense to me, reverberate within me, calm ease sedate relax still pacify me. (p. 213)

Frey selects evocative words sparingly to strengthen their impact and to create a poetic tone to his writing. His description of his appreciation and identification with the Tao is again something the reader can relate to; even if they are not aware of this particular text, we can presume they too would have been somewhat affected by a piece of writing before and will therefore comprehend Frey’s thoughts at this point in time also. We have already encountered both romantic and familial meanings in the text, and here we learn Frey values literature too as he describes a book within a book.

It is clear that readers were upset at Frey’s choice to give precedence to alternative representations over strict factual meaning. However, it also seems that there are much wider differences in the reception and acceptance of the book in terms of geographical location. Frey admits that embellished memoirs are more accepted in Europe than in puritan America;[56] ‘In America it was a huge deal […]. Outside the US it almost had the opposite effect’.[57] My own research, through the articles and reviews that have been referenced in this essay, suggests that Frey’s claim here is quite possibly true. Out of nine commentaries on A Million Little Pieces, Frey as an author and his later works, I have determined that there are no articles, from the UK or US, which are outrightly supportive of the author. I would argue that there are two American articles and one from the UK that are categorically negative about Frey. Most of the articles studied fall under the mixed category; the authors of these condemn Frey for his fabricated memoir but defend him in other respects. I contend that out of these, four are from the UK and two from the US. Therefore, Frey is right in suggesting that as an author he is more accepted in Europe, more specifically the UK; as my research shows, more UK articles lean towards being in favour of him than those from the US.

Frey suggests that the issues America has about truth may stem from its involvement with the war in Iraq.[58] Indeed, politicians have a reputation for being dishonest and seem to have a habit of covering things up, even in the UK, and this may have led to a feeling of mistrust and scepticism amongst the general public. In addition, he argues that the European literary canon is older and more creative than the American, which could be another reason why they are more tolerant of inventive memoirs. [59]

Furthermore, he criticises the American publishing and marketing worlds, and again relates this back to the differences between Europe and the US. He anecdotally expresses his experiences of laughing over hate mail with his English publisher and how he is encouraged to misbehave at events in France. He argues that ‘outside of America I haven’t had a problem with publishers abandoning me or getting scared of what I do’. [60] Additionally, in an interview from 2008, Frey was asked about how much control an author has during the marketing and promotion process and in answering, he implied that it is not very much, referring to certain non-disclosure agreements he had with his former publishers: ‘use your imagination’.[61] As a result of this and his views on US and UK reception, he now rejects traditional methods of publishing in America and seeks to find new ways of putting his work out there. For example, his latest novel, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, was published through a traditional publishing house in the UK, but in the US through the Gagosian art gallery as a limited edition.

The media also seems to instigate questions of trust; Barton writes that ‘our recent desire for facts is an indication that we are recoiling from a culture that has grown increasingly synthetic’.[62] We seek truth in magazines, documentary films and reality TV,[63] which is ironic, as we live in a world of airbrushed images and scripted programmes. Here, we return to the notion of mixing reality and artificiality, a technique that the New Journalists of the 1960s used when they took novelistic techniques to non-fiction, reportage-style writing. Tom Wolfe states that ‘[t]he idea was to give the full objective description, plus something that readers had always had to go to novels and short stories for: namely, the subjective or emotional life of the characters’.[64] He, amongst others, would write news articles but incorporate literary features in order to ‘write journalism that […] read like a novel’.[65] Similarly, A Million Little Pieces is an account of Frey’s life, and the embellishments act in place of the novelistic techniques employed by writers of the New Journalism style, in order to make the text accessible as fiction, or more ‘readable’, so to speak.

Likewise, Wolfe introduced a new style of writing, utilising unusual punctuation and graphology, so that readers could imagine the author’s internal thoughts and, interestingly, how it would sound out loud.[66] This is something Frey considers very important; he reads out everything he writes in order to find his ‘most authentic voice’, ‘a more natural rhythm’ and to write ‘realistic dialogue’.[67] Furthermore, Frey also presents his text distinctively; he capitalises letters unconventionally, puts letters in bold and does not depict conversation using speech marks:

I want to go to a Bar.
We’re not going to a Bar.
You might not be, but I am.
You just got out of Rehab.
I’m going to a Bar.
You just got out of fucking Rehab. (p. 505)

The capitalisation of common nouns places emphasis on these particular places, especially as there is a huge difference between a bar and rehab. The fact that Frey, a recovering alcoholic, wishes to visit one having just left the facility is worryingly paradoxical; his brother’s comment has been typed in bold and features swearing, again to accentuate Frey’s strange request and his strong belief that going to a bar is a bad idea. The use of the present tense and first person singular versus first person plural, in phrases such as ‘I am’ and ‘We’re not going’, stress the conflict of viewpoints; Frey wants to frequent a bar, whereas his brother believes the group as a whole should not do so. However, Frey does not and, to this day, has not relapsed. The lack of speech marks throughout the book reflects the author’s belief that using standard punctuation presents conversation as constructed, inaccurate and unrealistic, and that that there is a distinction between ‘what a person would actually say’ and ‘what a writer might have them say through writing’.[68] It also makes it hard to differentiate between dialogue and Frey’s internal thoughts; this can be at once frustrating and captivating for the reader as they attempt to make sense of this stream of consciousness. It could be argued that this process is reflective of the way Frey is trying to understand himself and his problems through writing.

Similarly, throughout A Million Little Pieces and in his other texts, Frey writes using long and short syntax, syndetic and asyndetic listing, to build up and create a tense atmosphere in which the reader is eager to continue reading. The lack of punctuation can again be seen here:

It is the loss of a childhood of being a Teenager of normalcy of happiness of love of trust of reason of God of Family of friends of future of potential of dignity of humanity of sanity of myself of everything everything everything (p. 202)

Commas have been erased, and several common nouns are capitalised to become proper nouns. The asyndetic listing allows Frey to explore what he has lost as a result of his addictions. These ‘lucid, linear streams of thought and image’ emerge throughout the book, sometimes taking up whole pages of the book (p. 188). For example, he writes, ‘Get better. Impossible. Stay. Impossible.’ (p. 188); each phrase is placed on a separate line. The graphology and lack of regular sentence structures helps to suggest that his problems are, sometimes, all he can think about. He cannot focus on anything but his unstable past and present situation, leading him to question his future and the choices he has to make.

Returning to the notions of fact and fiction that the New Journalists developed, even recent articles written about Frey are playing around with these concepts. For example, John Richardson exaggerates and fabricates a narrative in his article about the author. He imagines how, mid-interview, Frey reveals ‘The Book of Compassion’ to him, a book ‘created by an alien warlord who had a crazy idea he wanted to test on humans – if people could really feel the suffering of fictional characters, a single book could change the universe’.[69] There is a comical footnote at the end of the piece:

In the interest of a good old-fashioned metaphor, and inspired by the adventurous transgressions of James Frey, the author has taken liberties with certain elements of this story. Obviously. The Book of Compassion and the memory stick: fiction. The aliens: also (believe it or not) fiction. Otherwise, all action, situations, and most dialogue are quite real.[70]

For most of the article, Richardson sarcastically criticises the author until he believes he is ‘talking from the heart’ as Frey begins to give personal reasons behind the controversy and his own views on the literary ‘system’. Despite playing around with what is real and made-up in journalism, as well nodding to the controversy around A Million Little Pieces, Richardson begins to appreciate how Frey had ‘already told his truth in the way that matters most to a writer’;[71] having learnt this, he seems to respect Frey slightly more towards the end of the article.

This combination of fact and fiction is a key factor in identifying what makes non-fiction controversial; when someone breaks the ‘rules’, even if they are implicit, it gives literary critics and the general public a reason to cast a text or author aside. However, Frey ignores this; he has an unconventional writing style, he completely disregards the need for his work to be categorised and he rejects predictable methods of publishing in the US as he holds these publishers partly responsible for the controversy. He does not conform to the usual twelve-step method that Alcoholic Anonymous recommends, and uses his own way of approaching sobriety: ‘I’m going to live my life. I am going to take things as they come […]. When alcohol or drugs or both are in front of me, I will make a decision not to use them’ (p. 486). Circling us back to the opening quote of this chapter, Frey has developed his own ways of writing, publishing and thinking about literature; he is defiant and confident in stating that ‘[he doesn’t] think [he] should have to work within the system. And [he] never will’.[72]


‘James Frey is not like other writers. He has been called a liar. A cheat. A con man. He’s been called a saviour. A revolutionary. A genius.’ [73]

The first sentence of this quotation may be true, but only to a certain extent. In defence of Frey, he is not the first or only author to invent or fabricate information in a memoir. Holocaust literature has become incredibly popular in recent years, but it is a category of literature that has come under much scrutiny due to cases like Herman Rosenblat’s. His memoir, Angel at the Fence, was lined up to be released in February 2009 and told the love story of how a young girl used to pass him food through the fence at Schlieben concentration camp, and how he lost contact with her after being moved elsewhere. Years later, having been freed and moved to New York, they met by chance on a blind date, discovered who the other one was and fell in love. However, whilst Rosenblat is a genuine Holocaust survivor, researchers and historians explored the matter to discover he had not met his wife in this way at all; Berkley Books then withdrew the publication of the ‘memoir’.[74]

There are many similarities between Rosenblatt and Frey’s experiences of writing false memoirs. Firstly, like Frey, Rosenblatt and his wife appeared on the Oprah show in 1996 to share their story; both Frey and Rosenblat affirmed their stories were true in the media, despite knowing that liberties had been taken in both cases.[75] Each text now carries a certain stigma; the authors have a reputation for lying and concealing the truth and, for many, they can no longer be trusted. However, they are also analogous in the sense that each ‘memoir’ is actually based on true events. Rosenblat and his wife did not meet each other at the fence of a concentration camp, but he is an authentic Holocaust survivor; Frey may have overstated his time in jail, but he is a recovering alcoholic and addict. Thus, Frey’s actions may correspond with those of others.

As discussed previously, the answer to what makes a good book is subjective, and as a result, A Million Little Pieces is a controversial text. However, he is a unique writer, and this is perhaps a contributing factor as to why people have not taken to his work; conversely, many readers find his work captivating and appealing. Through experimental style, grammar and the visual presentation of text, Frey creates an innovative and raw piece of writing, which complies with the difficult narrative he is telling; it is not only his story that makes him a good author, but the way he tells it and the quality of writing.

In accordance, he does not abide by the conventions of the literary world. Despite the debates that arose after the revelations over A Million Little Pieces which were discussed in chapter one, Frey still chooses to disregard the notion of genre and intertwines fact with fiction. For example, despite the disclaimer (see chapter two), throughout Bright Shiny Morning, Frey records the history and growth of Los Angeles which is juxtaposed against four separate, fictional narratives and dozens of mini-stories. Yet Frey has to push the boundaries even further; when asked if the facts presented in the novel are true, he answers, ‘most of them’, admitting that even when he incorporates facts into his work, they might be his own inventions.[76] Similarly, his latest book, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, is a story of Frey’s invented Messiah, who returns to New York as a bisexual drug addict and supports euthanasia and criminality; the complete opposite to the conventional notion of the Messiah that many would expect. Frey makes the relevant point that in the Bible, Christ was what he calls ‘a radical’, who ‘wasn’t part of acceptable society…I think that if the Messiah were to arrive today, if Christ were to return, he would be that same type of radical’.[77] In naming his book The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, splitting the text up into chapters named after prominent biblical figures and using a simple and direct style to present stories and narratives, Frey’s writing is reminiscent of the Bible itself. He has made it clear that he was not trying to rewrite this religious text, and claims he would be content if his work did not offend anyone,[78] but if there is an opportunity for writing something slightly controversial, he will do it; he certainly does not make it easy for himself.

However, Frey’s decision to choose the riskier subject or a different method of publishing his books is reflective of current literary debates. His choice to issue The Final Testament of the Holy Bible through an art gallery links in with questions about the future of the book. We live in a world where e-books and other forms of digital distribution are on the rise. Frey addresses these topical questions about the future of publishing, and indeed literature, through his choices to be a non-conformist.

Having looked in chapter two at the different viewpoints about creative memoirs, I conclude that it is wrong to embellish in the genre. If Frey had inserted a small disclaimer in A Million Little Pieces, he would not have such a notorious and unfavourable reputation as an author. Frey did initially try to shop the book as a novel, but industry pressure may have resulted in the alteration of genre to a memoir; it seems Frey and his publishers underestimated the weight that this word carries. However, if we do take the book as fiction, it is a very powerful novel. It deals with the physical and emotional consequences of a serious addiction to alcohol and drugs that lasted over a decade, and how one man managed to recover from this dark period in his life. It is my contention that this is the most important message of the book; the thought-provoking subject matter combined with his extraordinary style of writing are the two reasons why I personally value this book, and indeed Frey’s writing style in general. He may not be able to stay within literary boundaries, but he can undoubtedly write. It is therefore fundamental for writers like Frey to challenge the conventions of genre, publishing and style in order to continue with the development and progression of literature in the future.

[1] James Frey, A Million Little Pieces (London: John Murray, 2003), p. 111.

[2] H. P. Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 146.

[3] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey’s Fiction Addiction’, The Smoking Gun (accessed 1 May 2012), p. 1.

[4] Anon, ‘What Happened’, James Frey, (accessed 1 May 2012)

[5] G. T. Couser, Memoir: An Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 52.

[6] Sarah Anne Johnson, ‘What’s a memoir writer to do? The James Frey controversy thrust issues of “truth”, memory and methodology into the spotlight.’, The Writer, November 2006, p. 20.

[7] Marc Peyser, ‘The Ugly Truth; When James Frey embellished his rap sheet in his best-selling memoir, did he cross the line into fiction?’,Newsweek, 23 January 2006, p. 62.

[8] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’, p. 1.

[9] Anon, ‘About The Smoking Gun’, The Smoking Gun,(accessed 1 May 2012)

[10] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’,p. 3.

[11] Ibid. (online)

[12] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’, p. 6.

[13] Ibid. (online)

[14] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’, p. 3.

[15] Ibid. (online)

[16] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’, p. 3.

[17] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’,p. 1

[18] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’, p. 2.

[19] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’, p. 5.

[20] Anon, ‘A Million Little Lies’, p. 2.

[21] David Morley, The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 177. p. 184.

[22] James Frey, ‘A Note to the Reader’, in Frey, A Million Little Pieces, p. v,

[23] Couser, Memoir, p. 18.

[24] Leigh Gilmore, The Limits of Autobiography (New York: Cornell University Press, 2001), p. 16.

[25] Couser, Memoir: p. 34.

[26] Ibid., pp. 15-16.

[27] Ibid., p. 34.

[28] Gilmore, Limits of Autobiography, p. 14.

[29] Johnson, ‘What’s a memoir writer to do?’, p. 20.

[30] Ibid., p. 20

[31] Roy Peter Clark, ‘How to fix the memoir genre’, USA Today, (accessed 1 May 2012)

[32] Fern Kupfer, ‘Everything But The Truth?’ High Point Regional School District, (accessed 1 May 2012), p. 1.

[33] Morley, Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing, p. 191.

[34] William Bradley, ‘The Ethical Exhibitionist’s Agenda: Honesty and Fairness in Creative Nonfiction’, College English, 70: 2 (November 2007), p. 204.

[35] Anon, ‘Word of the Year 2006’, Merriam Webster online, (accessed 1 May 2012)

[36] Kira Cochrane, ‘Commentary’, New Statesman, 30 January 2006, p. 57.

[37] Couser, Memoir, p. 83.

[38] Ibid., p. 81.

[39] Guy Adams, ‘James Frey’s Happy Ending’, The Independent, 26 May 2008, p. 22.

[40] Couser, Memoir, p. 91.

[41] James Frey, ‘Music and Talking’, James Frey, (accessed 3May 2012)

[42] James Frey, interviewed by Oprah Winfrey,, 26 January 2006, ‘Oprah's Questions for James’, (Accessed 1 May 2012), p. 7.

[43] Frey, ‘Music and Talking’ (online)

[44] Bradley, ‘Ethical Exhibitionist’s Agenda’, p. 207.

[45] Ibid., p. 209.

[46] James Frey, interviewed by Larry King, CNN Transcripts, 11 January 2006, ‘CNN Larry King Live: Interview with James Frey’, (Accessed 1 May 2012)

[47] Ibid. (online)

[48] Graeme Neill, ‘Bright shiny Frey’, The Bookseller, 25 April 2008, p. 24.

[49] Rebecca Dana, ‘James Frey's Religious Awakening’, The Daily Beast, (accessed 3May 2012), p. 1.

[50] Tom Wolfe, The New Journalism (London: Picador, 1996), p. 51.

[51] Kristine Huntley, ‘Frey, James: A Million Little Pieces’, Booklist, 15 April 2003, p. 1432.

[52] John Dolan, ‘A Million Little Pieces of Shit’, The Exile, (accessed 4 May 2012), p. 1.

[53] Laura Miller, ‘The Thirteenth Step’, The New Yorker, 12 May 2003, p. 110.

[54] Andrew Bennett, Readers and Reading (New York: Longman, 1995), pp. 3-4.

[55] Ibid., p. 9.

[56] Neill, ‘Bright shiny Frey’, p. 24.

[57] James Frey, interviewed by Jian Ghomeshi, Qtv, 28 August 2008, ‘James Frey on QTV’,  (accessed 3May 2012), 2:24 – 2:37 (minutes: seconds).

[58] Laura Barton, ‘The man who rewrote his life’ The Guardian, 15 September 2006, p. 6.

[59] Ibid., p. 6.

[60] Rocco Castaro, ‘The Gospel of Glut’, Vice, (accessed 8 May 2012), p. 3.

[61] Frey, interviewed by Ghomeshi, ‘James Frey on QTV’, 9: 04.

[62] Barton, ‘The man who rewrote his life’, p. 6.

[63] Ibid., p. 6.

[64] Wolfe, The New Journalism, p. 35. 

[65] Ibid., pp. 21-2.

[66] Ibid., pp. 35-6.

[67] Frey, ‘Music and Talking’ (online).

[68] Ibid., (online).

[69] John H. Richardson, “’There is no truth,” he said. The future of the written word, and the liberation of James Frey. With space aliens.’, Esquire, November 2011, p. 134.

[70] Ibid., p. 134.

[71] Ibid., p. 134.

[72] Ibid., p. 134.

[73] Anon, ‘The Final Testament of the Holy Bible’, James Frey, (accessed 16 May 2012).

[74] Elizabeth Day, ‘When One Extraordinary Life Story Is Not Enough’, The Guardian, (accessed 8 May 2012).

[75] Anon, ‘Love Lessons’, Oprah, (accessed 8 May 2012), pp. 1-3.

[76] Frey, interviewed by Ghomeshi, ‘James Frey on QTV’, 4:40.

[77] Castaro, ‘The Gospel of Glut’, p. 1.

[78] Ibid., p. 2.



Alice Anderson Bonner


brightONLINE student literary journal

10 Aug 2012