Wednesday, January 18, 2006

a million little pieces of wtf


Mark Morford takes on all the bull and then some about the frenzy surrounding James Frey and JT LeRoy. Frey's best-selling memoir has been discovered to be one hundred percent fiction. JT LeRoy was never really a child prostitute in the Deep South. In fact, he isn't even JT LeRoy. And the literary establishment is all up in arms, somewhat offended, yet generously willing to debate the issue. All literature is a work of the imagination anyway. If a reader enjoys it, it must be real to them. Everything's good, right? Right?

In my opinion, no. Both these authors - I use the word, of course, in its broadest sense - and their publishers have cheated their readers. New Criticism is all very well in its place, but even William Empson would protest this, I think. Forget the fact that we live in a world where what the media says about a particular work of art is now a separate entity, a meta-text that informs that work. Forget the artistic and moral implications of the rising numbers of people who undertake this sort of "emotional tourism" (Slate's phrase, not mine), and now people who are finding new ways to exploit the market. Oh, forget about simple emotional honesty. I haven't read these books, but I come across little quotes on the Internet, such as, from Frey's A Million Little Pieces:

"I remember staring at her, recklessly and obviously, eyes locked and loaded and unmoving, my eyes straight into her. I remember not knowing if she noticed. I had fallen deep and hard I had fallen. I didn't know if she noticed."


I can hear the screams. The screams of the Addicted without their addictions. The screams of the dead who are somehow still alive.

... and am I missing something perfectly obvious to the masses that are even now devouring this book? Because this is really bad writing. My vocabulary contains nothing to express how frightful, how terrifyingly bad I think this writing is. Pearl Jam songs are better than this. It is baffling to think of such impressive controversy surrounding writing that is selfconsciously awful. One's respect for teenage poets rises a notch or two. At least they don't know what they're doing.

Anyway. What Mark Morford said. Go read him. He'd make a perfectly grand memoirist if he weren't, you know, funny. JESUS. This is mind-boggling.

Jesus: I know. It's sort of like that Mel Gibson film - what was it called?
Me: Braveheart?
Jesus: No, the one that makes my infant self weep tears of blood?
Me: The Passion?
Jesus: *gentle shudder* Let's just watch TV.


  1. Are you actually suggesting Pearl Jam's writing's bad???? Hmmph!!

  2. I'm doing rather more than suggesting. I think they're terrible. :P

  3. :D I like your honest style of writing.

  4. >I'm doing rather more than suggesting. I think they're terrible.<

    duly hurt n indignant n all that..


    me too!!

  5. Hmm. terrible? this from the girl who proclaimed to love 'Even Flow' and 'Eddie Vedder.' Well, ok. It is an opinion after all. life goes on na! :D. But i still can't believe it. Treachery, it is!

  6. Anonymous3:09 am

    Ew. That is bad writing. Having said that, I do think the problem with writing about drug use and drug treatment is it lends itself to godawful writing. I mean, the day to day business of adiction is generally dull, the exerience itself one of numbness and disasociation rather than wrenching, illuminating angst. Then once recovery is attemted the whole twelve step/phoenix house /NA programme literatue is so cringeworthily trite I am continuiously amazed people look to rehab as good source material for fiction.

    Also, I think Frey is reprehensible because he's bound to become a role model for people trying to give up drugs. He's virtually set himself up as a been-there-done-that guru of getting through this when, you know really he knows sod all. He's just continued to add to the myths and fake glamour around drug use.

    JT Leroy on the other hand I have a bit of a soft spot for, possibly because I think s/he's a good writer, possibly because the media feeding frenzy around her/him was so vile and disgusting I'd be quite pleased to find him a fake rather than genuine. There's was interesting article on him in the Gaurdian here and I nearly posted my own observations, except of course I'm too lazy.

    And you know obviously I'm now going to publish my own true story of love life and Henna as a 20,000 year old rent-boy in the seedy backstreets of New York.


  7. @ anindita: thank you - that's a pretty loaded compliment given the subject of this blog. i'm so glad. :)

    @ kray: duly noted but honestly. they're so whiny.

    @ kaush: i DO like even flow. and eddie vedder is sexy in some lights. but on the whole? really, no.

    @ em: write, write about jt leroy! please. i'm so inspired to fic about them. i read that guardian article and it more or less took your stand re: him too. i guess a lot of the backlash against him is in fact about how many of the literary establishment he's conned. to each his own, but as someone said, it'd be crappy if what "he" did means that no one will put their faith in a kid with a brilliant idea again.

    as for frey, that is such an excellent point. i meant to mention that i had been reading "middlesex" last weekend and really, it was such a stunning example of how pure fiction could give a disenfranchised minority - in this case - hermaphrodites and transsexuals - such a confident, vibrant and humane voice. and then you have arses like james frey who are doing exactly the opposite.

    the glamour of drug use is probably a notion propagated by the beats, who a lot of fledgling angsty writers want to copy as soon as they start out, imho. unfortunately they have neither the context, nor the urgency, nor the modicum of talent.

    *g* of course you'll be dedicating that novel to the rich young popstar that gave you shelter and his platinum AmEx card, won't you?

  8. A Million Little pieces = 100% fiction? Fuck that. There were embelished facts and changed names AS IN ALL MEMOIRS and some facts were changed for anonymony. However, the book was fucking genious and after being as fucked up as he was, would you expect your memory to be perfect? Don't be a dick and maybe read the book and the insert put into the book after the controversy of it all and then say what you've said.

  9. Um, sorry to have hurt your feelings...? As for willingly putting myself through the book - not if someone paid me to read it. Sort of like your well-spoken, well-argued comment.

  10. Also - anonymony? Is that like REAL money?

  11. Anonymous10:52 pm

    I really enjoyed this book.

  12. Anonymous9:27 am

    this book. is amazing. i hate structured books with obbsessive compulsive grammer and uninteresting sounding sentences. this book is his voice, and if you read it well enough and are dedicated to the book itself, you really neter into his frame of mind. people have different styles of writing, not all like you believe it to be. this book is insightful, and although it is not true (as yes, i know, he said it was) it is still a great read. atleast this man is an interesting writer, and knows how to reach everyone.

  13. Susan8:13 am

    Frey's writing is concise and deep. Though his style is more plain than ornate and lacks grammatical sophistication, the way he presents his message is relatable, which is the most important, and often times, the most difficult goal to achieve. Even if his memoir was in fact completely false, it is still extremely accurate, and an amazing piece of writing. And not to be offensive in any manor, but if Mr. Frey's writing is so atrocious as to trash it online, why have you stopped there, and not gone straight to the publisher? I'm sure you could make some flashy public court case just like the other pathetic beings, just like the mothers against Harry Potter.

  14. Pearl Jam writes AMAZING songs.
    In My Tree...
    Pearl Jam

    Up here in my tree, yeah
    Newspapers matter not to me, yeah
    No more crowbars to my head, yeah
    I'm trading stories with the leaves instead, yeah

    Wave to all my friends, yeah
    They don't seem to notice me, no
    All their eyes trained on the street, yo, oh
    Sidewalk cigarettes and scenes, (tem-pted)
    Up here so high I start to shake
    Up here so high the sky I scrape
    I'm so high I hold just one breath here within my chest
    Just like innocence

    (Eddie's down in his home)
    (Oh, the blue sky it's his home)
    (Eddie's blue sky home)
    (Oh, the blue sky it's his home)

    I remember when, yeah
    I swore I knew everything, oh yeah
    Let's say knowledge is a tree, yeah
    It's growing up just like me, yeah
    I'm so light the wind he shakes
    I'm so high the sky I scrape
    I'm so light I hold just one breath and go back to my nest
    Sleep with innocence...

    Up here so high the boughs they break
    Up here so high the sky I scrape
    Had my eyes peeled both wide open, and I got a glimpse
    Of my innocence... got back my inner sense...
    Baby got it, still got it

  15. Peter4:13 pm

    @ roswitha, I read saying something a bout a well-argued comment. Well I don't really see you giving good arguments about why the writing is so bad as well. You just say: I have no real words for it, "It's just bad writing" .
    While you didn't even read the books, you just saw some quotes on the internet, you heard that it was all fiction, while it was claimed to be non-fiction. And now the writing is bad and the book sucks??
    May be in your opinion, but honestly, you're not really convincing me. Come up with some good arguments about why the writing and the book are so bad. And maybe then, maybe then we'll talk further.

  16. And, Peter, you suppose I want to 'talk further' about this excuse for literate expression because ...?

  17. Anonymous3:59 am

    Why are models made to walk down the runway with the blankest look possible on their faces? This is because the designers don't want you attracted to their faces, but rather the beauty of the clothing. This is the same style that James Frey used in "a million little peices". He wanted you to feel the importance of what he was writing about, and not the way he was writing it. You are not attracted to the grammar, your put straight to the main meaning, and that is what he meant to do. He wrote it in a thought process, as if your in his thoughts, and by doing it this way, you feel what he feels, and its an amazing.

  18. Anonymous10:03 am

    A book like A Million Little Pieces was meant to be wrote like a diary in some sense. The bad writing shows character. This is the reason that I like it. No book has to be PERFECT just because. In case you haven't read the introduction to this story he isn't a professional author. He was just writing what went on in his life. I'm sorry that you don't like it, but I did.

  19. Anonymous7:43 am

    you can't really say a book is terrible if you haven't read it, your just being really closed minded and ignorant i think. you say its bad writing because you came across a couple quotes on the internet. regardless if some parts are true or not, its still a very excellent book about drug addiction and over coming your personal weaknesses. many people who have read the book even said it helped them fight their demons

  20. Anonymous8:37 pm

    Your post about Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" is severe. I have actually read the book and have had struggles with addiction. I think his diction and writing style proves to be affective. When someone is high or going through an addiction, your thoughts are jumbled and you are confused. You are thinking in contradictions and that is exactly what Frey's writing depicts. Did anyone ever think that he wrote the book this way on purpose. Perhaps it was not meant to be an eloquent memoir about the trials of his life. His writing was real.
    Also, all the commotion about his embellishing his writing - no kidding. It is a piece of literature. The author is entitled to poetic liberty. If he had not added some excitment and drama, do you think anyone would read it? Everyone of course is entitled to their own opinion, but I think James Frey deserves a little more credit.

  21. Emilie6:26 pm

    Personally i think you should stop criticising James Frey's work. I cannot comment on JT Leroy's, because i have not read it, and therefore i cannot defend it. But i have read James Frey's 'A Million Little Pieces'.
    First of all, the whole point of this book is to see what Frey went through, and to help others with similiar problems. It has helped a great deal of addicts and alcoholics, and the relatives of those affected by drugs etc.
    Also the book isn't gramtically correct, you are right in that matter. However, it is stripped down to minimal punctuation and accuracy to show how raw his feelings were, and James Frey has explained this in various interviews which can be found online.
    But most of all, this book was to document his feelings, and his priority concern was not to have critics or have the general public criticise him for his work. His concern was to show the feelings that affects everyone going this ordeal, and to give help who actually appriciate it rather than those who are criticising the book for it's grammar, and not what the book actually stands for.
    What i cannot believe is that you have written about 'A Million Little Pieces' as if it is a worthless book, and yet you havn't even read it. Next time you insult a book, just make sure you have actually read it, otherwise your statement on bad grammar makes you feel like a right heartless twat.

  22. Anonymous8:42 pm

    I agree with 'Emilie'.
    You clearly don't understand what you are on about, and next time leave it to those who appriciate the struggle throughout the story and not the odd comma or two.

  23. Anonymous7:37 am

    hey bitch, before you say this is bad writing maybe you should shut the hell up and read the book first.

  24. Anonymous7:37 am

    Frey's style of writing is NOT bad. He writes in trains of thought. As far as I'm aware, human beings have those. It gives a more realistic impression of emotion on the reader; it's more human. I think it allows the reader to connect to the protagonist in a much deeper way than simply stating the *yawn* obvious and boring. Before you even consider jumping on the 'James Frey sucks' bandwagon, how about you actually READ the book? (like many others have said). Your ignorance makes me want to vomit in a bag and then throw it at you.

  25. Anonymous1:58 am

    wow you really need to read the book. its great. ive read the book many times and its bot so much the story of what happens. its what he says. read it. youll like it.

  26. Anonymous1:58 am

    wow you really need to read the book. its great. ive read the book many times and its bot so much the story of what happens. its what he says. read it. youll like it.