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Frey's gay
pal—or not

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

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 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 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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