James Frey dis­cusses new book

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - News - By Hum­berto J. Rocha hum­berto.juarez@hearst­medi­act.com

NEW CANAAN — For James Frey, the con­tro­ver­sial au­thor who has lived in town for five years, there is no mid­dle ground. He wants his read­ers to have a strong re­ac­tion to what he writes.

“Be­fore I be­came a writer, I had these lofty and id­i­otic goals. The big­gest of them was to be­come the most con­tro­ver­sial, most po­lar­iz­ing, most di­vi­sive, most no­to­ri­ous writer in the world,” Frey, 49, said at the New Canaan Li­brary be­fore de­scrib­ing au­thors whom he ad­mired, like Henry Miller, Jack Ker­ouac and James Joyce.

Frey had ar­rived from Port­land ear­lier that day, from a tour to pro­mote his new novel, “Ka­te­rina,” that takes place in 1992 Paris and present-day Los An­ge­les.

Though asked to read a few pages from the new book, Frey went straight to tak­ing ques­tions from the au­di­ence, which ranged from a va­ri­ety of top­ics, in­clud­ing writ­ing style, the edit­ing process and in­flu­en­tial works and even the cur­rent state of pol­i­tics in an ex­ple­tive-laden con­ver­sa­tion.

“I wanted (my style) to be ab­so­lutely sin­gu­lar, ab­so­lutely unique. I wanted it to move fast and I wanted for when it hit you, to hit you hard. Find­ing all of those things took a long time. Once I found them, writ­ing ‘A Mil­lion Lit­tle Pieces’ was la­bor, but it wasn’t the strug­gle that it had been for years pre­vi­ous,” Frey said, in­ter­rupted by ap­plause from some peo­ple in the crowd at the men­tion of his 2003 book.

Frey rose to star­dom over 10 years ago fol­low­ing the publi­ca­tion of “A Mil­lion Lit­tle Pieces,” which was pro­moted as a me­moir about his al­co­hol and drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion that earned a spot in Oprah’s book club in 2005.

By 2006, Frey was ac­cused of fab­ri­cat­ing cer­tain parts of the book. He sub­se­quently ad­mit­ted to have “em­bel­lished many de­tails about my past ex­pe­ri­ences” in a note to read­ers that same year.

The value of his work, how­ever, still res­onates with read­ers. A woman in the front row said she was thank­ful for Frey’s “A Mil­lion Lit­tle Pieces,” which helped her get through her own re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process.

The 2003 book was re­leased as a big-screen adap­ta­tion on Sept. 10 at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val and stars ac­tors in­clud­ing Billy Bob Thorn­ton and Char­lie Hun­nam.

Re­gard­ing his move to New Canaan, Frey said, “I wanted to live some­where where I could walk and see the stars and breathe and stand on a soc­cer field and not be James Frey, but to just be an­other dude stand­ing there,” Frey said.

Some of the peo­ple in the au­di­ence hadn’t read Frey’s ear­lier work, but were en­thralled by friends’ rec­om­men­da­tions or the set­ting of the new book.

“I heard the book was about Paris, and it sounded like a nice story. I re­ally like Paris and I thought I’d check it out,” Sheila Fin­negan, a lo­cal res­i­dent, said. “The li­brary al­ways has some nice events.”

Around 90 peo­ple at­tended the dis­cus­sion, which was spon­sored by the li­brary in part­ner­ship with Elm Street Books.

“It was a very in­ter­est­ing event,” said Cyn­thia Brown, a pho­tog­ra­pher and pot­ter in New Canaan. “I’m also an artist and it was in­ter­est­ing to hear about how im­por­tant the arts are to him.”

Hum­berto J. Rocha / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

James Frey pro­moted his new book “Ka­te­rina” at the New Canaan Li­brary last week.

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