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Book Review May 29, 2003
 
A Million Pieces Of Shit
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 5
 
Caps are also used to sanctify some of the therapy-babble Frey learns at the clinic. Jonesing hard, he dreams of mounds of drugs. This, a therapist solemnly informs him, is "...a User Dream," caps and all. Indeed. When you fall asleep hungry, you might have an Eater Dream. If you lust in your sleep, you may experience one of those Fucker Dreams.

These capitals feed nicely into the insanely self-aggrandizing tale. Frey's every whim is capitalized and cherished. When he feels calm, a rehab therapist informs him, "You had what is called a Moment of Clarity."

Walking on a trail outside the clinic, Frey names and capitalizes everything: "Trail," "Tree," "Animals." Then he sees a lower-case "bird." I was offended for our feathered friend. Why don't the birds get their caps like everybody else?

But then Frey is no expert observer, as he proves in one of the funniest scenes from his nature walks, when he meets a "fat otter": "There is an island among the rot, a large, round Pile with monstrous protrusions like the arms of a Witch. There is chatter beneath the pile and a fat brown otter with a flat, armored tail climbs atop and he stares at me."

Now, can anyone tell me what a "fat otter with a flat, armored tail" actually is? That's right: a beaver! Now, can anyone guess what the "large, round Pile with monstrous protrusions like the arms of a Witch" would be? Yes indeed: a beaver dam!

Any kindergartner would know that, and anyone with a flicker of life would be delighted to see a beaver and its home. But for Frey, a very stupid and very vain man, the "fat otter" is nothing but another mirror in which to adore his Terrible Fate. He engages the beaver in the most dismal of adolescent rhetorical interrogations:

"Hey, Fat Otter.

He stares at me.

You want what I got?

He stares at me.

I'll give you everything.

Stares at me...."

And so on, for another half-page. You want to slap the sulking spoiled brat. The Fat Otter should've slapped him with its "flat, armored tail" and then chewed his leg off and used it to fortify its "Pile with monstrous protrusions."

But if you hit Frey, you would be in serious trouble. Not just because Frey's dad is a filthy-rich international corporate lawyer, but because, as he never tires of informing the reader, Mister James Frey is one tough bastard. He gets in real fights, albeit only with moribund addicts twice his age.

Frey makes his bones on the mean corridors of his clinic by going through painful reconstructive dentistry without anaesthetic. Because he's an addict, he can't even have local anaesthetic (or so he claims). He goes through about 30 pages of what he calls, in his inimitable style, "Pain pain pain pain pain" in the dentist's chair. He then totters back to his room unaided. After that, he is the baddest dude in the whole private clinic. He wins the respect of the very baddest of his fellow inmates, who become his best friends.

Guess who his new friends are. Go ahead, guess! I'll give you a hint: just pick the most ludicrous cliches in American TV aimed at pubescent male audiences. Forget about subtlety. Imagine this novel was a screenplay by the dumb brother in Adaptation. Who would he pick for the hero's friends?

Well, here are the guys who became Frey's pals: Leonard, a highly-placed Mafia killer from Vegas; Matty, a black former world champion boxer; Miles, a black Federal judge from New Orleans who plays the clarinet.

There they are, the most childish dreams of every little rich white boy: being down with the brothers and the Mafia. The tough guys. The Jazzmen. Having friends with connections in those two equally artificial cities, Vegas and New Orleans.

Frey makes other friends who are also straight out of Central Casting -- like Ed, a Steelworker from Detroit. Ed, like all these other walking cliches, turns out to have a soft, sentimental heart under his tough exterior: "Ed is a hard man. Big, strong, tough as the material he works with, and I have never seen him be vulnerable in any sense of the word, but as he talks of his sons, his eyes get soft and wet."


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