Frey's gay pal—or not

Author James Frey has admitted to embellishing certain sections of A Million Little Pieces, his best-selling memoir of recovery. His second book, My Friend Leonard, is worth a look for its gay-themed plot. Just take it with a grain of salt

BY Chad Graham

January 17 2006 1:00 AM ET

Oprah Winfrey
recently sent a book to me here at our offices at The Advocate. 

Of course, Oprah
knows the gays just love her, and in her personal note
she told me that I had to read a new book called My
Friend Leonard.
It is by James Frey, the
author who wrote the critically acclaimed memoir of
addiction and recovery called A Million Little
Pieces.
Made an Oprah’s Book Club pick, the book
launched Frey into superstardom, selling over 3.5
million copies. It also plunged him into controversy
this month when TheSmokingGun.com broke the news that Frey
embellished key parts of the book. The author admitted as
much January 11 on CNN's Larry King Live. 

Well, I just
loved My Friend Leonard. I was sobbing so much that I wound
up at the emergency room, where a doctor sewed up my tear
ducts and put me on a morphine drip. Gayle King sent
flowers.

Sorry. I’m
taking literary license with this book review.

There was no
hospital trip. I don’t know Oprah. In reality, I
picked up Frey’s tome at an airport bookstore
and finished it on a flight 35,000 feet over
Albuquerque. My eyes did well up with a few tears. I wiped
my nose on my sleeve.

Leonard is a fascinating tale of the salvation of an
addict. Frey is out of rehab, has been to prison,
experienced the suicide of a young woman he loves. As
he tries to stay sober, he is aided by Leonard, an
angel of a man whom he met in rehab. It turns out that
Leonard is a kind of underworld boss/shady businessman
who has spent his life in the closet. At the end he
dies from complications due to AIDS.

Here’s the
problem: The power of Frey’s writing lies in the
reader’s belief that all this stuff really
happened. However, though he claimed in A Million
Little Pieces
to have been in endless trouble with
the law, The Smoking Gun site found only a few such
incidents: One was being stopped for drunken driving
in Michigan, for which he pleaded guilty to a reduced
charge of reckless driving and was fined $305. The other was
for traffic infractions involving drunken driving in
Ohio, and according to the county sheriff where this
took place, he never spent time in the
jail—ever, for any reason. “The 36-year-old
author, these documents and interviews show, wholly
fabricated or wildly embellished a details of his
purported criminal career, jail terms and status as an
outlaw ‘wanted in three states,’
” the Web site concluded.

In light of those
findings, consider Leonard’s gay theme. Has
any of this stuff been wildly embellished? If
so—and we are saying if—Frey is
preying on the heartstrings of LGBT Americans. Sorry,
we’ve had enough real-life experience with the
ravages of AIDS. We don’t need another
fictional story where the gay guy dies. And we've got our
gay mafia character. He’s on The Sopranos. 

So, dear
Advocate.com readers, wait to buy this book when it arrives
in paperback—and take it with a grain of salt.
Or listen to Oprah: “What is relevant is that
he was a drug addict...and...stepped out of that history
to be the man he is today and to take that message to save
other people and allow them to save
themselves,” as she said during a surprise phone
during Frey’s interview with Larry King.

At least we
believe it was Oprah.

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