the gospel according to frey

23 08 2011

James Frey:  Reformed addict, fraudster, or just a damned good writer?

I’m going with the latter. Ever since his startling debut novel  A Million Little Pieces  was ‘exposed’ as a work of fiction rather than the memoir of a recovering crack addict, the American writer has been lumped with the label of con-man.

Except that, for my money, it simply makes AMLP all the stronger. What sort of wonderfully twisted and creative mind could come up with such a story?

The guy is one helluva fiction writer, even if his ‘memoir’ falls short. Plus, the fact that Oprah and her minions were among those pointing the finger made me feel the deception was just a whole lot of hot air [and ratings??].

Since then, Frey has gone onto pen My Friend Leonard, plus Bright Shiny Morning .

The first, a sequel to AMLP, deals with life after rehab and the protagonist’s relationship with his gangster buddy.

Bright Shiny Morning however, brings us a slice of LA life, a set of unrelated, ordinary lives unfolding as people go about their business of surviving. Except that it is completely engrossing.

Even on a second viewing, I put aside everything else to burn through it, captivated by tales of the Mexican maid with big thighs for example, or the bum who refuses to drink anything except Chablis.

And now he’s done it again.

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is his latest. He certainly knows how to stir trouble. It’s a pretty amazing read.

The novel deals with the appearance of a man many believe to be Jesus. Certainly, this bloke claims to speak to (some) god and has a message to deliver, but it’s not necessarily what the people want to hear.

Frey raises one of my favourite religious themes here, one that has cropped up previously in the film Stigmata and even The Da Vinci Code, namely that you don’t need organized religion to be a decent person —  ‘God’ or whomever is up there, just wants you to be a good person. Be nice. Love each other.  Have fun.

This new messiah, named Ben in the book (!!), has a fine time taking religious leaders to task over their ridiculous notion of living by the Word of God.

The world is a different place now…What’s crazy is living your life according to some book written by someone who couldn’t imagine what your life would be like.”

Priest: “Worship makes one’s life better.

Ben: “Love and laughter and fucking make one’s life better. Worship is just the passing of time.”


Go get yourself a copy.