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AMERICA: Stuck In The Teeth

from America Magazine

Stuck In The Teeth

POSTED AT: FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2012 07:25:58 PM
AUTHOR: JIM KEANE, S.J.

In his memoir/novel A Million Little Pieces (first pitched as the latter, then sold and made famous as the former, then eventually exposed as largely the latter), author James Frey tells the harrowing tale of undergoing a double root canal without any anesthetic.  It’s one of the most cringe-worthy moments in the book, because anyone who has had a root canal even withanesthetic can testify it’s an uncomfortable experience, to say the least.  To have two at once without painkillers seems beyond the realm of the possible.  In Frey’s case, it was—he later admitted the details of the root canal story (among many other stories) were somewhat fudged.  In terms of the structure of Frey’s book, however, the scene accomplished several tasks: it showed the reader just how serious his addictions were, that he could not have even novocaine; it provided a benchmark for physical pain that many readers could relate to in some fashion; and, perhaps most importantly, it established the author as a tough guy nonpareil.  Not a bad haul for a story about one’s teeth, yes?

I am teaching a class on Religious Memoir this semester, and our first text is Augustine’s Confessions.  It includes of course the famous story of his theft of the pears; there are the years spent in dissipation; one finds the tales of his mother’s stubborn refusal to give up on her son.  Then, right there in Chapter 4 of Book 9, nary 500 words from his account of his own baptism: a toothache!  Here is Augustine’s account, addressed to God:

[ click to continue reading at America Magazine ]

Posted on February 4, 2012 by Editor

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