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Book Review December 15, 2005
 
The Plagiarism of James Frey Revealed
A Million Bottles Of Beer On The Wall By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
 

Dr. Dolan responds to yet another slew of hate emails sent to him by fans of James Frey, author of the confessional novels A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard, which were reviewed by Dr. Dolan in previous editions of the eXile.

Was James Frey ever a junkie? The more I look into this fraud, the more cunning fakery I find. Thanks to a book loaned to me by a friend, I now think Frey stole all the drug details he put in his hit novel, A Million Little Pieces. If he went to rehab, I'm betting it was for good ol' booze, with maybe a cocaine chaser.

As for the absurd cornucopia of drugs he lists on his bad-boy CV in AMLP-well, I suspect that is simply a lie. Frey doesn't even know any better than to include "glue" in his list. A rich boy like him using glue?

That's just a lie. Nobody but the very dregs of the dregs uses that poison, except perhaps masochists with a yen for violent nausea and headaches. If Frey's faking his past, then his role in reinforcing drug-user stereotypes, providing the rubes with new proof that drugs equal addiction equal death, is even sleazier than if he was just a junkie peddling streety anecdotes.

Frey got those anecdotes the no-risk way: he stole them from a real druggie/criminal author. A much better and more honest one, a guy named Eddie Little-specifically, Frey looted Little's great debut novel, Another Day in Paradise.

I owe my friend Ruth for handing me Little's novel. I'd never heard of it when she suggested I check it out. If you think truth in writing is rewarded by fame and money, that might seem weird, because Little was not only a much better writer than Frey but unquestionably the real thing. I say "was": because Eddie Little died the way real addict/crims do: he OD'd in a sleazy LA hotel room a few years ago. That's authenticity, the kind you pay for.

Little wrote a column called "Outlaw L.A." that ran when Frey was living in LA writing bad movies (eg Loving A Fool). I think Ruth's hunch was right: Frey, like the thief and conman he is, read Little's column, then his book, and started stealing. Naturally, he cut the key element of Little's books: the unhappy endings. The fake transformations suckers demand.

Another lie, those transformations; people live and die as unvaryingly as insects. Frey himself illustrates this perfectly. He was a yuppie schemer from birth, a trust-fund bum with a roof rat's adaptive, though repellent traits: a rat cunning and lack of shame.

These qualities happen to be the key to success in the US: voila Frey embracing Oprah. "But he's a big hit!" That's what Frey's fans have been telling me, echoing a vile proverb: "You can't argue with success."

Which is utter crap. You damn well better argue with success, or accept suckerdom. If Kiss sold a thousand albums for every one Velvet Underground did, they're better?

Frey succeeded by using a cheap oxymoron: streety grime with a happy ending. Impossible, fake, wildly popular. Like Kiss, or ET.

Frey's fans seem to care only about his street creds, so this might be a blow. It's weird the way they ignore the issue of his worth as a writer. They don't even seem to have the notion that it matters whether a book is good or bad. If these jerks cared about quality, maybe Eddie Little, whose prose is great-fast, funny, scary, and full of the kind of weird, sick detail-might have been the one to get rich. Which means he'd be alive now, because he could afford clean pharmaceutically-produced opiates, which are virtually risk-free. Yep, that's what Reagans' friends live on, prescription opiates with a Chivas Regal chaser. And they live to eighty, fucking your sixteen-year-old nieces on their deathbeds. But you picked Frey and let Little die forgotten. What, you're allergic to truth?

Actually, I suspect you are. That's why you love this fake, Frey: because Frey's version of the drug world is false in every way. But it's a nice rightwing lie, so you're happy. He assures you that indeed, drugs equals addiction equals rehab or death. Which is utter, absolute nonsense.

Here's a stat to prove it: last year Italian pollution officials checked levels of chemical in the Po River, which drains most of Northern Italy. They discovered there was so much cocaine residue in the water that the residents of the area had to be using coke at more than ten times the rate cops had estimated. It meant that every young adult in the place was coked, every weekend. Two relevant facts: Northern Italy is virtually crime-free. The only crimes around are imports (Albanians, mostly), and they're not the coked-up partygoers whose piss was getting the river so high. (Lots of talkative, gung-ho fishies in the Po, I bet.)

Second key fact: coke is actually one of the more dangerous drugs, almost as bad as alcohol.

Combine these facts and stats and you see that (A) There are far more drug users than we admit out there; (B) They're doing fine, holding jobs, raising kids, snorting on the weekends and trooping back to work like the rest of us. They just have a better time on the weekends than you booze-suckers.

Since Frey knows nothing about drugs and cares nothing for truth, he opts for the most lurid, criminal version of druggie life. He knows you pious hypocrites love that stuff. So he stole Little's stories, carefully leaving out all the good parts. See, that's the key: y'all like Frey not despite his weakness as a writer but because of it.

Compare his stories with Little's and you'll see this. Little generates horror and triumph without resorting to tearjerking; Frey zooms to the weepy scenes, too ignorant to fake the details he doesn't know and too cynical to care about filling in his crude narrative.

Compare outcomes: Little paid for his knowledge of junkie-dom and died a junkie's death; Frey stole Little's scars, tears and knowledge, skipped the weird stuff and sold you a cut-and-paste tale of tears ending with redemption, a hymn with a lot of curse words to cut the treacly taste. That's a classic H-wood trick, you know: when a screenwriter doesn't know the streety world he's trying to write, he just puts in a "fuck" every three words. It's cheap spraypaint local color, and the suckers don't mind as long as they get that fake happy ending, that Kenny Rogers redemption, at the end.

And you, you hundred million suckers, shunned Eddie Little and made James Frey your Oprah pick for Next Jesus, with legions of adoring groupies providing mobile cock-suckery for his self-worship tours.

I used to pity you as victims, but I see from your rage at my review that you have a stake, something to lose, in Frey's scam. It's your only chance to feel those human-type emotions you've left behind in real life. Frey's books are Murine for smalltime Bushies: stolen emotions that somebody else had to pay for. A couple of kleenex and you're back at work, indifferent to the misery which pervades our country now.

Eddie Little wouldn't; no Oprah or legion of cocksucking lady fans for Eddie. No nothing except what his obituary writer (the swine) dared to call "an unheroic death." Meaning, of course: a very heroic death. An honest man's honest death, and thus something to be abhorred by the suckers.

Oh, you tsk-tsk at the real druggies, and Frey's happy to feed you the lie that drugs equals addiction equals death or rehab. Of course you never include your faves: booze, the most dangerous drug of all. Or valium. And of course most suckers don't even realize that all of America's elite, from Winona to the junk-bond billionaires, pops prescription opiates legally every day of their lives.

Oh, but you're sure all those other drugs are killers. Thing is, you know that's a lie. Or you could know, if you had any attraction to truth at all. You could recall the people you grew up with. You'd find the ones from solid families went on to solid lives, and the ones who were fucked-up stayed that way, and drugs had nothing to do with either outcome. The kids in my world used more drugs than Frey has ever taken. (In fact, I challenge Frey to a hair-analysis drug test. I bet he's done tons of booze, coke now and then, pot like every other dork, and nothing else.)

You know this drug phobia is a lie. No, gotta correct myself: you COULD know, if you had any interest in truth at all. You COULD know it simply by glancing at any list of names from your youth. Hell, most of you could use your current addressbook, because contrary to the Frey melodrama version, the planet is full of hardworking, law-abiding middleaged druggies.

The only real risk they face is being arrested and thrown into hellish prisons because they have the sense to prefer the products of our wondrous pharmacological technology to filthy peasant brainbashing alcohol. You COULD know, but you'd rather have poor wretches OD on junk that can vary from 5% to 98% pure, like Eddie Little.

If Eddie got it from a Park Ave doctor the way all your heroes do, that wouldn't happen. But that's what you guys believe, after all: you can't argue with success, or, by logical extension, with failure. Eddie failed and died. Frey is America's sweetheart and patron swine-his druggie past as fake as everything else in his books. And Prohibition keeps killing thousands every year, with the help of Frey's Starsky & Hutch lies about "addiction." The man's rottenness has no bounds; he has the smell of a future President about him.

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