James Frey wrote a book. A work based both literally and loosely on experience. He tried to offer his manuscript as fiction, but somewhere along the line, someone decided it should be a memoir. So, memoir it was! A Million Little Pieces was filled with truth and fiction and punctuation that would drive the sanest mind wild. The book took off like a rocket, sold a million little copies — then all the little fictionalized pieces were noticed. James was then reprimanded. Ostracized. Poo-poohed. Banished. Forever, it was thought.
But James Frey is back, and he’s written a work of fiction with punctuation that still feels like bamboo needles under the fingernails. His syntax is completely out of whack. I can’t even bear to discuss his run on sentences. Still, for all that’s conventionally “wrong” about this book, it’s one of the best damned reads I’ve had in a long while. Bright Shiny Morning. That’s what he’s given me and anyone else who dares pick up something that breaks every grammatical rule, as well as, your heart — a Bright Shiny Morning.
No one knows how to review the thing. I think that’s because there’s so much history with its author. For some, it’s hard to separate the writer from the written.
Myself? I don’t care about punctuation. If I remember correctly, Frank McCourt didn’t bother with any rules in Angela’s Ashes. Remember all those missing dialogue quotes? But what do I and the Pulitzer Prize people know about those little marks that set dialogue apart from prose? Pfft! I also don’t care if one’s memories are immaculately preserved within absolute truthfulness. I don’t believe for a second that big grown-up Frank McCourt remembered every detail of little Frank McCourt’s life without embellishment, literary license, a flaw here and there. I took a class one time where the teacher arranged for some hooded guy to abruptly bang open the classroom door and “rob” him. You know where I’m going here. Each student remembered differently. So must it be with writing memoir. Especially when it comes to the memories of your childhood or when you were screaming-whacked out on drugs.
And precisely why I write fiction … except for this bloggy thing, of course, which is totally (or at least mostly) truthful — oh, and those nuts-and-bolts articles that are so boring they make my eyes bleed. Oh, yeah — and ad copy, and the miserably truthful material I write regarding homelessness at haspa.org.
There ain’t no bugs on me … there ain’t no bugs on me. There may be bugs on some’a you mugs, but there ain’t no bugs on meee.