Anchor (September 22, 2005), 448 pages
Another ‘accidental’ book. I was having some documents photocopied at the bookstore, and, not surprisingly, just 4 pages took an hour to photocopy. While waiting I found this on sale, and well, not that I rely on Oprah’s Book Club, but it being a non-fiction memoir plus the reasonable price made me get it.
I struggled to read this book not because it was of deep literary content. Hell no. If its possible that reading a book can give you a beating, I would say that true to this one. The first half of the book is painfully, excruciatingly detailed and dragging. James Frey is 23 years old, addicted to drugs and alcohol. Story opens when he is brought to rehab and ends when he gets out of it, only to serve a 3 month stay at the county house (jail).
Plot has absolutely no say in this book. Character development is what makes up the entirety of it. At the start, James is realistically cynical about the rehab program, and like a wounded animal (physically and literally), he shuns away and bites at anyone who crosses him. Although he changes predicably at the end, its admirable how he adheres to his own principles still, and doesnt follow the so-called ’12 Step Program’ of the center. He still manages to cure himself of his alcoholism in his own way. James is crass and “fuck” and “asshole” pop up every 5 words. It doesnt change until the last page but it can be seen that in the latter part of the story, the words are used in a wizened sort of way.
He develops a special fraternal bond with the other men in the center. His best friend being a mafia boss, Leonard (to which this book has a sequel, “My Friend, Leonard). His friendship with him is more of a fahter-son relationship and they look out for each other’s asses.
James’ struggle to be clean (of his addictions) and be human at the same time (fell in love with a fellow AA) is as real as can be. Frey’s narration of feelings are as detailed as can be. I was brought back in time when i was 12 and I had bad teeth and had to undergo a number of frustrating fillings. But this guy had to undergo fillings and root canals without any anesthesia. And his unusual narration–raw and long sentences, can both be refreshing and leaving you gasping for a comma or a period.
“I stay still as someone’s hand pulls my bottom lip out abd stuffs the space between my lip and gum with cotton. I can feel the stitches stretch and blood start to seep. The same procedure is done with my upper lip and my cheeks and it feels as if my mouth is full of fibrous dirt and almost instantly, everything is dry. A spray of water moistens it, but not enoough. It is dry and it will stay dry no matter how many sprays I get.
I close my eyes and I try to settle in and make myself comfortable. There are wads of cotton in my mouth and there is throbbing agony from the earlier drilling. The drill is back on and its working through the fragment of my left tooth. It is moving through a thinner, more fragile section of bone, so it workds quickly. It shoots the grit, makes the hole, penetrates. At the point of penetration, a current shoots through my body that is not pain, not even close to pain, but something infinitely greater.
Everything goes white and I cannot breathe. I clench my eyes and I bite down on my existing teeth and I think my jaw might be breaking and I squeeze my hands and I dig my fingers through the hard rubber surface of the tennis balls and my fingernails break and my fingernails start to bleed and I curl my toes and they fucking hurt and I flex my muscles in my legs and they fucking hurt and my torso tightens and my stomach muscles feel as if theyre going to collapse and my ribs feel as if theyre caving in on themselves and it fucking hurts and my balls are shrinking and the shrinking fucking hurts and my balls are shrinking and the shrinking fucking hurts and my dick is hard because my blood hurts and my blood wants to escape and is seeking exit through my dick and my dick fucking hurts and my arms are straining against the thick blue nylon straps and the thick blue nylon straps are cutting my flesh and it fucking hurts and my face is on fire…”
Frey has been admired for his lack of self pity, and unlike most ‘trashed up’ people who credit bad childhood and fucked up families for their addiction, he takes full responsibility of his being messed up. His parents are well off, in love with each other, gives him too much money and attention.
Frey also refuses to accept the principles and steps of the center, which is veered towards Catholicsm, as he has had a very bad experience with a homosexual priest.
He defines religion in a simple, logical manner that makes atheism understood:
“I think God is something that people use to avoid reality. I think faith allows people to reject what is right in front of their eyes. which is that, this thing, this life, this existence, this consciousness, or whatever word you want to use for it, is all we have, and all we’ll ever have. I think people have faith because they want and need to believe in something, whatever that something is, because life can be hard and depressing if you don’t. ”
To sum it up, my feelings towards this book is sort of like a hate-like thing. I hated it because it was full of negativity (atmosphere, words, theme) and I cannot relate to the addictions, and it was just too dragging. I began to like it when it started picking up, when his parents came over and the rehab nurse explained why seemingly perfect parents still do damage to a child. I couldnt wait to finish the book because I was just too exhausted, needless to say, I was definitely Not addicted to it.