A friend of mine relayed a story to me about her shopping trip at the mall for a dress to wear at a friend’s wedding. She was shopping for shoes to go with the dress and overheard the conversation of the store clerk with a pair of women. The clerk had brought out a pair of shoes to the women, and said, ”Oprah had these shoes on her show. You should really try them on.”
This goes to the heart of what is wrong with Oprah. How did this one woman become so huge as to influence an entire segment of the population on their consumerism? When Oprah goes on a diet, people rush out to buy the books which got her there. Given that I have seen Oprah go from fat to thin to fat to thin about three times, you have to wonder about the people who are blindly following her.
When Oprah talked about her relationship with Dr. Phil, all of a sudden Dr. Phil was the hottest shrink on the planet. Without Oprah, Dr. Phil is no one. He doesn’t have his own show. He maybe is lucky to get a book published. He certainly wouldn’t be a household name.
This brings me to what has made me so mad as to finally open up and write about it. Oprah has chosen one of my favorite books for her book club.
I am very protective of my favorite books and I try not to be swayed by the popular press. I founded and currently run the book club at my office. When I started it with a friend of mine, we made a pact to never choose a book that Oprah picked for her book club. Thankfully, she had never chosen any book that I had cared to read, until now. I have always felt that Oprah chose those books for the wrong reason—not to celebrate great literature, but to further Oprah and her cult of style. I had applauded when Jonathan Franzen chose to withdraw his book as an Oprah book club choice. Franzen chose to forgo the millions of sales in order to hold true to his principles, something truly lacking these days.
Two years ago, soon after its release, my friend and I chose a little known book entitled A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. When it was chosen, I was skeptical. All we had to go on was a few reviews on Amazon. Of the five reviews at the time, all were positively glowing. It also helped that the editors of Amazon had chosen the book as the best book of the year.
After reading, I was sold. Frey relates the story of his journey from a drug and alcohol abuser, through rehab and into real life. The story is a very moving one. It involves a love interest, true friendship, and the fight of one man to regain his life for himself. I will never in my life forget the scene where Frey receives a root canal without any Novocain. And in case you weren’t sure, the entirety of the book is true.
The book is written with little punctuation. There are no quotes. You have to follow the conversations closely in order to stay with it. This is part of what intrigues me about the book—the sheer intensity of the reading experience. His sentences at the beginning of the book are short, choppy, reflective of the mind-set of Frey before he reaches rehab. As the book progresses, you get to see the growth of character and the maturity of Frey expressed through the language of his writing.
I read an interview with Frey not too long ago. In it, Frey expresses how difficult it was to write his opus. The intensity of the feelings that it brought out in him was just too much for him to continue with it. I am so glad that he decided to go on with it.
When someone comes to me now for a book recommendation, one of the top three books which I give them is A Million Little Pieces. I truly believe that anyone who reads this will be forever changed, and that it will be very difficult for anyone to not be moved by the experience. I won’t lie. I cried at the end of the book. Yes, I am a man admitting that a book made me cry. Once you read the book, you will understand.
I have held off reading his new book, detailing his life after rehab. I am saving that experience for another time, though I am sure that I will enjoy it also.
So, to finish, I offer a plea to my fellow reader. If you are to go out and look for A Million Little Pieces, please do not do so because Oprah told you to do it. Please don’t purchase the Oprah edition of the book. Look long and hard. Buy the hardcover version if you must. Finally, enjoy A Million Little Pieces for the wonderful book that it is, not because Oprah told you it was amazing.