I love James Frey. I love what he says and how he says it. There, I said it.
I thought I’d go for something a bit different for this week’s FF. It’s definitely not YA, or Paranormal, or Fantasy! But here are some of the reasons why James Frey is one of my favourite authors.
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing.
-A Million Little Pieces (Goodreads synopsis)
I didn’t know anything about A Million Little Pieces before I picked it up. I didn’t know it had been marketed as a memoir rather than fiction so I totally missed the whole hype and scandal because I never thought it was anything other than fiction; Fiction that I fell in love with instantly. There’s something about Frey’s streamofconsciousness style that I just can’t get enough of. It’s simple and fierce yet really beautiful in some way. The idea that someone who is beyond broken is doing everything he can to stay alive, and still manages to find beauty in the world and some kind of hope and faith is what really beguiled me. This book is also completely and utterly heartbreaking. You’ve been warned.
I felt exactly the same about follow-up My Friend Leonard too. ‘A heartrending story of a friendship between a newly-sober James and the charismatic, high-living mobster he met in rehab, Leonard. I haven’t reread it as many times as AMLP but it’s still up there in my favourites list.
Then, when Bright Shiny Morning came out I bought the huge hardback edition and was so excited to read it, but it was such a let down. Sad Panda. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even finish it, (I should really give it another go though) so I didn’t know what to expect when I heard his next book was titled The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.
As I was waiting for the book to be released everything went a bit crazy.
He’s been called a liar. A cheat. A con man. He’s been called a saviour. A revolutionary. A genius. He’s been sued by readers. Dropped by publishers because of his controversies. Berated by TV talk-show hosts and condemned by the media. He’s been exiled from America, and driven into hiding. He’s also a bestselling phenomenon.
I have no doubt that the above quote (which is used on Goodreads as the start of The Final Testament synopsis) was just another promotional tool to create this ‘character’ of James Frey. But for a few weeks everywhere I turned, Frey was being called the most hated writer in America, which just made me want to love the book even more. And I did.
What would you do if you discovered the Messiah were alive today? Living in New York. Sleeping with men. Impregnating young women. Euthanizing the dying, and healing the sick. Defying the government, and condemning the holy. What would you do if you met him? And he changed your life. Would you believe? Would you? This is The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why this book created such controversy. Having a protagonist who many perceive to be Jesus reborn who insists that he’s just a man and that religion does nothing but spurn hate and will be the ultimate undoing of the world will do that. He also sleeps with almost everyone he encounters, not forgetting the men…shock horror! But seriously, come on. James Frey is a writer. It’s fiction. If you don’t like the subject matter don’t read it, but leave the poor man alone.
The Final Testament has its flaws. It gets pretty ridiculous and it repeats itself a tad (love is all that matters, yadayadayada), but I felt the same way reading this as I did AMLP- It just spoke to me. I get what he’s trying to say and I like it.
‘I had spent my life worshipping death, fearing it, obsessing over it, and living my life according to what a book says will happen when it comes…I came to understand that it’s no way to live, and that living is all we have and all we will ever have, and that is not to be wasted. That love is life. That life isn’t worth living without love. And that the Catholic Church, filled with celibate men who have no experience with it, has no right telling other people how to love or who to love or what kind of love is right or wrong.’