The Book Club of Two

One of my co-workers, Giggles, told me I absolutely had to pick up this book she was reading and read it with her. She said she was thirty pages into it when it made her think of me. While I’m flattered that she thinks about me outside of work (which I did not hesitate to tease her about), I was also curious about the subject matter of the book. It’s about a drug an alcohol addict, and his path to recovery. I repeat, it’s about a junkie, and it makes her think of me. Go back to that part about me being flattered and change it to insulted. I freely admit that I was open-minded and experimental when it came to altering my mind with chemicals, but I would never describe myself as an addict. Anyway, I agreed to pick up the book (because I’d just finished the last three I bought and had that hollow. I-don’t-have-any-books-to-read feeling) and went to the mall (ugh) during lunch.
The book, by James Frey, is titled “A Million Little Pieces.” When I’m looking at it in Waldenbooks, I see that it’s been featured in Oprah’s bookclub. I’m immediately turned off by this, because my caveman instincts tell me this is not going to be a masculine book. The non-caveman side reminds me that the last book I read (“Swimming in the Starry River” by P. Carey Reid) was pretty high on the estrogen scale, and I enjoyed that book quite a bit. So I buy the book. But, to make myself feel better about it, I also ran to the Anime section and pick up the ‘Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence’ DVD. (I can’t stop myself from impulse-buying. God, help me.) I almost ran to EB Games, but since I just bought a game (F.E.A.R., and I recommend it to any FPS fan.) there last week, I restrained myself.
The rest of the work-day passed uneventfully and, by the time I got home, I’d forgotten about the book. I wasn’t in the mood for painting, didn’t feel like getting on the computer beyond checking e-mail, so I parked myself on the couch and put in the latest arrival from Netflix, “Requiem for a Dream.” It’s a film about drugs, and how they mess up the lives of four people. This movie was recommended to me because I liked “Trainspotting.” About an hour into the movie, I realized that I don’t really like the movie, and that I’m not even going to bother writing a review of it (beyond this paragraph), and I’m desperately hoping that Jennifer Connelly gets naked before the movie ends. She did. It didn’t make me enjoy the movie any more. The movie reminded me, though, that I had just purchased a book about a drug user. So I went out to the truck, got my book, and plopped back down on the couch.
I could not put this book down, and it was 1:00am and 180 pages later before I realized it. I forced myself to go to bed, and brought the book with me to work so I can read it during my breaks. I’ve not been this interested in a book in a long time.
The story is a memoir. In the beginning, James Frey wakes up on an airplane. He’s coming around from a blackout, and covered in blood and urine, with four of his front teeth broken. He has no idea how he got there, or where he’s going. It’s a good opener. His writing style breaks all rules of grammar, but no worse than much of the poetry I’ve enjoyed through the years. The style fits the subject matter, and I like it. It’s vulgar. The F-bomb is dropped at least once a page. It fits the subject matter. So it’s almost like reading an epic poem about the Hell that a life of drugs can create. I am looking forward to my next break so I can squeeze in another 10 pages.
I had one lingering question, though. Why did this story make Giggles think of me? I’m no junkie. I’ve never had a blackout (at least not that I can remember, ha ha!). I’ve never been to Rehab. Hell, she doesn’t even know half of my story when it comes to the Drug Years. So I ask her this morning, and she tells me:
“In that part where he’s playing the tough guy with the staff while they’re questioning him, I could totally see you doing that.”
Yeah. I can see that, too. In fact, I think the biggest reason I love this book so much is that I can identify with Frey’s tough-guy exterior and insecure interior. Since it’s a memoir, we hear what he says, and hear what he thinks. The two are usually opposites. What is it about us men that makes us so afraid to show our feelings? Why has society painted us as the strong and stable figure? If you kick us in the no-no spot, do we not scream and hunch over and pass out? (Ladies, don’t test this. Just accept my word for it when I say that we do.)
I picked up this book thinking that I would have it to read while at Edisto. I can see I’m going to be finished with it before then. I’m going to have to find another book to read. I’ve heard some really good things about “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. And so begins the Book Club of Two.