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A Million Little Pieces

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A Million Little Pieces Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“The most lacerating tale of drug addiction since William S. Burroughs’ Junky.” —The Boston Globe

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of A Million Little Pieces, James Frey’s furious and inspired memoir of addiction and recovery.

1. A Million Little Pieces presents some unusual formal innovations: Instead of using quotation marks, each piece of dialogue is set off on its own line with only occasional authorial indications of who is speaking; paragraphs are not indented; sentences sometimes run together without punctuation; and many passages read more like poetry than prose. How do these innovations affect the pace of the writing? How do they contribute to the book’s rawness and immediacy? How is James Frey’s unconventional style appropriate for this story?

2. A Million Little Pieces is a nonfiction memoir, but does it also read like a novel? How does Frey create suspense and sustain narrative tension throughout? What major questions are raised and left unresolved until the end of the book? Is this way of writing about addiction more powerful than an objective study might be?

3. Why does the Tao Te Ching speak to James so powerfully? Why does he connect with it whereas the Bible and Twelve Steps literature leave him cold? How is this little book of ancient Chinese wisdom relevant to the issues an addict must face?

4. James is frequently torn between wanting to look into his own eyes to see himself completely and being afraid of what he might find: “I want to look beneath the surface of the pale green and see what’s inside of me, what’s within me, what I’m hiding. I start to look up but I turn away. I try to force myself but I can’t” [p. 32]. Why can’t James look himself in the eye? Why is it important that he do so? What finally enables him to see himself?

5. When his brother Bob tells James he has to get better, James replies, “I don’t know what happened or how I ever ended up like this, but I did, and I’ve got some huge fucking problems and I don’t know if they’re fixable. I don’t know if I’m fixable” [p. 131]. Does the book ever fully reveal the causes of James’s addictions? How and why do you think he ended up “like this”?

6. Why are James and Lilly so drawn to each other? In what way is their openness with each other significant for their recovery?

7. Joanne calls James the most stubborn person she has ever met. At what moments in the book does that stubbornness reveal itself most strongly? How does being stubborn help James? How does it hurt or hinder him?

8. The counselors at the clinic insist that the Twelve Steps program is the only way addicts can stay sober. What are James’s reasons for rejecting it? Are they reasons that might be applicable to others or are they only relevant to James’s own personality and circumstances? Is he right in thinking that a lifetime of “sitting in Church basements listening to People whine and bitch and complain” is nothing more than “the replacement of one addiction with another” [p. 223]?

9. What are the sources of James’s rage and self-hatred? How do these feelings affect his addictions? How does James use physical pain as an outlet for his fury?

10. How is Frey able to make the life of an addict so viscerally and vividly real? Which passages in the book most powerfully evoke what it’s like to be an addict? Why is it important, for the overall impact of the book, that Frey accurately convey these feelings?

11. When Miles asks James for something that might help him, James thinks it’s funny that a Federal Judge is asking him for advice, to which Miles replies: “We are all the same in here. Judge or Criminal, Bourbon Drinker or Crackhead” [p. 271]. How does being a recovering addict in the clinic negate social and moral differences? In what emotional and practical ways are the friendships James develops, especially with Miles and Leonard, crucial to his recovery?

12. James refuses to see himself as a victim; or to blame his parents, his genes, his environment, or even the severe physical and emotional pain he suffered as a child from untreated ear infections for his addictions and destructive behavior. He blames only himself for what has happened in his life. What cultural currents does this position swim against? How does taking full responsibility for his actions help James? How might finding someone else to blame have held him back?

13. Bret Easton Ellis, in describing A Million Little Pieces, commented, “Beneath the brutality of James Frey’s painful process, there are simple gestures of kindness that will reduce even the most jaded to tears.” What are some of those moments of kindness and compassion and genuine human connection that make the book so moving? Why do these moments have such emotional power

14. In what ways does A Million Little Pieces illuminate the problem of alcohol and drug addiction in the United States today? What does Frey’s intensely personal voice add to the national debate about this issue?

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400079018
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Subject:
Substance Abuse & Addictions - Drug Dependence
Author:
Frey, James
Author:
James Frey
Subject:
Specific Groups - General
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography-Specific Groups - General
Subject:
Self-Help-Substance Abuse & Addictions - Drug Dependence
Subject:
Self-Substance Abuse & Addictions - Drug Dependence
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography : Specific Groups - General
Subject:
Self-Help : Substance Abuse & Addictions - Drug Dependence
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography : General
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography : Personal Memoirs
Subject:
General
Subject:
Substance Abuse & Addictions - General
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Audio Books-Nonfiction
Subject:
Biography - General
Subject:
Health and Medicine-General
Subject:
Recovery and Addiction - Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Subject:
Recovery and Addiction - General
Subject:
Recovery and Addiction-Personal Stories
Subject:
Sale Books-General
Subject:
Sale Books-Spirituality
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Publication Date:
20040501
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
430

Related Subjects

Biography » General
Health and Self-Help » Recovery and Addiction » Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Health and Self-Help » Recovery and Addiction » General

A Million Little Pieces
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 430 pages Nan A. Talese - English 9781400079018 Reviews:
"Review" by , "James Frey has written the War and Peace of addiction. It lends new meaning to the word 'harrowing' and one sometimes shudders to read it. But deep down, beneath all the layers and the masks, there lives something unconquerable in Frey's hurt spirit...And the writing, the writing, the writing."
"Review" by , "From the get-go, [Frey's] book sets itself a part, its narrative unspooling in short, unindented paragraphs and barely punctuated sentences whose spare, deadpan language belies the horror of what he';s describing — a meltdown dispatched in telegrams."
"Review" by , "Gripping... A great story... You can't help but cheer his victory."
"Review" by , "One of the most compelling books of the year... Incredibly bold... Somehow accomplishes what three decades' worth of cheesy public service announcements and after-school specials have failed to do: depict hard-core drug addiction as the self-inflicted apocalypse that it is."
"Review" by , "Again and again, the book delivers recollections that leave the reader winded and unsteady. James Frey's staggering recovery memoir could well be seen as the final word on the topic."
"Review" by , "Thoroughly engrossing... Hard-bitten existentialism bristles on every page... Frey's prose is muscular and tough, ideal for conveying extreme physical anguish and steely determination."
"Review" by , "Frey has devised a rolling, pulsating style that really moves... undeniably striking.... A fierce and honorable work that refuses to glamorize [the] author's addiction or his thorny personality.... A book that makes other recovery memoirs look, well, a little pussy-ass."
"Synopsis" by , A memoir of drug and alcohol abuse and the rehabilitation experience examines addiction and recovery through the eyes of a man who had taken his addictions to deadly extremes, describing the battle to confront the consequences of his life.
"Synopsis" by , At the age of twenty-three, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his four front teeth had been knocked out. His nose was broken and there was a hole through his cheek. He had no idea where the plane was headed or what had happened over the preceding two weeks. He had been an alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three. When he checked into a treatment facility shortly thereafter, he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached twenty-four.

A Million Little Pieces is Frey's acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab; fiercely honest and deeply affecting, it is one of the most graphic and immediate books ever to be written about addiction and recovery.

James Frey has written the War and Peace of addiction. It lends new meaning to the word 'harrowing' and one sometimes shudders to read it. But deep down, beneath all the layers and the masks, there lives something unconquerable in Frey's hurt spirit... And the writing, the writing, the writing.

PAT CONROY

A Million Little Pieces is as intense and perfectly detailed an account of a human quitting his drug and alcohol dependency as you are likely to read. And James Frey is horribly honest and funny in a young-guard Eggers and Wallace sort of way, but perhaps more contained and measured. He is unerring in his descent into a world where the characters need help in such extremely desperate ways. Read this immediately.

GUS VAN SANT

A Million Little Pieces is this generation's most comprehensive book about addiction: a heartbreaking memoir defined by its youthful tone and poetic honesty. Beneath the brutality of James Frey's painful process of growing up, there are simple gestures ofkindness that will reduce even the most jaded to tears. Very few books earn those tears--this one does. It will have you sobbing, laughing, angry, frustrated, and most importantly, hopeful. A Million Little Pieces is inspirational and essential. A remarkable performance.

BRET EASTON ELLIS

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