Addiction & Alcoholism

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
AddictionsA Can of MadnessA Drop of the Hard StuffA Million Little PiecesAA: Not the Only WayAddicted Like MeAddictionAddictionAddictionAddiction and ArtAddiction and ChangeAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction Is a ChoiceAddiction NeuroethicsAddiction Recovery ToolsAddiction TrajectoriesAddiction TreatmentAddictive BehaviorsAdvances in the Neuroscience of AddictionAlternatives to AbstinenceBeautiful BoyBeyond AddictionBlackoutBlameBodies in Motion and at RestBrokenCaught in the NetChasing the HighChasing the ScreamCircles of RecoveryCloserCodependent ForevermoreControlling Your Drinking: Tools to Make Moderation Work for YouCrackedCreating the American JunkieCybersexDirtyDrinkingDrinking in AmericaDrug Dealer, MDDrunk the Night BeforeDrunkardDryDuplicityEcstasyForces of HabitFree RefillsFrom Sabotage to SuccessGetting HookedGetting OffGetting WastedHigh PriceHookedHow to Spot Hidden Alcoholicshow to stop timeHypnosis for Smoking CessationIf I Die Before I WakeIllness or Deviance?In the Shadows of the NetLeaving Las VegasLitLithium for MedeaLiving With One’s PastLove JunkieMatters of SubstanceMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMethadoniaModerate DrinkingMore, Now, AgainMy Friend LeonardNever EnoughOver the InfluencePorn NationPowerfully Recovered!Rachel Getting MarriedRachel's HolidayReal Solutions for Overcoming Internet AddictionsRecovery from AddictionRecovery OptionsRequiem for a Dream DVDSex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation Sex Addiction: The Partner's PerspectiveShameShe Bets Her LifeSmackSmashedSmashedStop Smoking and Chewing Tobacco for Life ChangesStrong FeelingsSubstance Abuse As SymptomTackling AddictionTalking Oneself SoberThe 5 Reasons Why We OvereatThe AddictThe AlcoholicThe Angry HeartThe Behavioral AddictionsThe Betty Ford Center Book of AnswersThe Big FixThe Biology of DesireThe Book of JamaicaThe Chemical Dependence Treatment PlannerThe Heart of AddictionThe Meaning of AddictionThe Night of the GunThe RecoveringThe Science of AddictionThe Science of Self-ControlThe Sober TruthTheory of AddictionThinking about AddictionTreating AddictionTweakUS of AAVirtual AddictionVoices of AlcoholismWhat Did I Do Last Night?What is Addiction?Writing to Heal

Related Topics
My Friend LeonardReview - My Friend Leonard
by James Frey
1594481954, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jul 18th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 29)

Now that James Frey has acknowledged that major features of his memoir A Million Little Pieces (reviewed in Metapsychology 8:39) were invented rather than fact, it is not so clear how to react to his work.  Some will dismiss it out of hand as a pack of lies, but that's not a very thoughtful response.  Other recent memoirs have been pretty hard to believe, (especially those of Augusten Burroughs) and some have frankly blended facts and lies together partly in exploration of the genre (see Lauren Slater's Lying).  Just about every memoir will disguise people's true names, and many of them will describe the distant past with so many small details of conversation, weather and household decoration that they have to be unreliable descriptions unless the author was followed around by someone with a video camera recording all the important events.  Eyewitness testimony is often untrustworthy and memories of trauma can certainly be flawed.  Any critical reader of a memoir will wonder how accurate the author's recollections are and how different the versions of events would be if given by other people in the story. 

Nevertheless, when coming to Frey's follow-up memoir, My Friend Leonard, one wonders whether there really was any such person as Leonard.  He's not a very believable character: a criminal with a heart of gold, very wealthy and powerful, a former addict who unofficially adopts Frey as his son.  Now that we know that Frey himself is a less brave, less interesting character than he portrayed in his first memoir, it becomes even less credible that, if Leonard existed, he would have wanted Frey as his son.  As each event follows the next, one wonders whether any of the descriptions are true.  At the start of the book Frey's new girlfriend, the one he met when he was in a treatment program, also a recovering addict and the one true love of his life, hangs herself just before Frey arrives in town to be reunited with her, a bunch of flowers in his hand.  It's a very dramatic moment.  Too dramatic?  Do some searching on the Internet and it is easy to find allegations that there was no such suicide.  It certainly makes the story more gripping.  Frey spends the following months in mourning, struggling not to return to his former life of alcohol and drugs.  Yet he makes sure to keep a bottle of potent cheap wine in his apartment and he spends his time with his old friends, in bars during the evenings, getting drunk while Frey drinks cola and plays pool. 

Leonard comes into town and changes Frey's life around, putting him into a different apartment and giving him a job that is obviously associated with criminal activity.  Frey gets paid handsomely for doing rather little.  Eventually, Frey quits this job in favor of an honest day's wage: he decides to go to Hollywood to become a script writer.  He starts to lead a more sociable life, forming a relationship with a woman and getting himself some dogs.  But he has only moderate success, and he is not always so good at staying in relationships.  Leonard is there for him many times, providing him advice and moral support, mysteriously coming and going.  But ultimately Frey makes it on his own, without ever going to a single AA meeting.

Frey uses the same distinctive grammar, punctuation and formatting as he did in his first memoir.  He avoids all quotation marks, and he never indents the first line in his paragraphs.  Often for dramatic effect he omits comas or semi-colons.  He uses many short sentences.  All of this gives the feeling that the reader is listening into Frey's internal voice, and creates an unusual sense of intimacy.  He sounds like the narrator to a black and white detective movie, telling the reader it was a dark and rainy night when there was a knock at the door.  He is both terse and surprisingly open about his feelings, his crying and his agony.  Like it or not, Frey is a powerful writer, although occasionally it all feels too stylized. 

There's no doubt that Frey has been dishonest and self-serving as a memoir writer, and this undermines the book as a story of his life.  This knowledge affects the experience of reading this memoir.  Nevertheless, as an account of living life as an ex-addict without the use of the usual forms of group help and therapy, My Friend Leonard remains a forceful and unusual work. 







© 2006 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


Welcome to Metapsychology.

Note that Metapsychology will be moving to a new server in January 2020. We will not put up new reviews during the transition. We thank you for your support and look forward to coming back with a revised format.

We feature over 8300 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our Google Group!

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716