Study Guide

A Million Little Pieces Genre

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Autobiography/Postmodernism: Is it Real, or Is It James Frey?

Oh, boy. You're asking us about the genre of A Million Little Pieces. We're gonna take ten deep breaths before we try tackle this.

Okay, done.

Where to begin? Well, perhaps James Frey is one of those people who don't understand the difference between "fiction" and "non-fiction." ("So, fiction is true, and non fiction is not true, correct?")

Memoirs often tread a fine line between fact and fiction. Memoirists often embellish the truth, especially when writing dialogue. Do you remember every exact word in every Very Important Talk you've had in your life? No? Didn't think so.

But where does embellishment end and outright lying begin?

Memoirists may sometimes cross the line from fact to fiction, but they sure as heck better not cross Oprah. If Oprah says, "I don't know what is true. And I don't know what isn't" (source), you know you are in deep doo-doo.

According to James Frey, "If it were [his] choice […] A Million Little Pieces would be listed as literature" (source). Some paperback copies of the book even say "Memoir/Literature." Can a book be both, or is Frey trying to have his cake and eat it, too?

When anyone lies, the lie raises many more questions than it answers. We have a ton of them in this case: Is this scandal all Frey's publisher's fault? If the book had been published as "fiction," would as many people have read it or cared? Would it have been published at all?

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