Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Read James Frey You Fools

If you’ve never read a James Frey book, do yourself a big favor and make a trip to Borders asap. As someone who likes to read a lot, I can confidently tell you that Frey is probably the best American author right now.

You may remember Frey from his highly-controversial biography A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, about his struggle to kick booze and drugs. That was the book that Oprah endorsed on her show then endorsed some more when it was revealed that two or three parts of the story may have been exaggerated for effect. In the end, Oprah did what Oprah always does: caved under the public pressure and buried Frey on national TV, making him sit there on her Chicago stage while she called him a liar and a fraud. It was one of the most disgusting TV moments I can remember. And I still don’t know why Frey let her bash his life’s work, Book Club or not. By the way A MILLION LITTLE PIECES is a masterpiece, A MASTERPIECE, exaggerated or not. And guess what? It’s not even his best book. More on that in a second.

Frey has a very sparse style and his word-choice is as elementary (in a brilliant way) as writing gets:

The phone rang
A voice answered
I knew the voice
It said ‘Hello.’ It said ‘My son.’

All of his books are like that on every page, but by the end Frey has entrapped you in an original, unique, unforgettable story, taken you on a journey, and you have no idea how he did it, how he crafted a masterful tale with such simple, quick-hitting language. MY FRIEND LEONARD was the follow-up to PIECES. Nobody ever talks about LEONARD. It’s one of the best books you’ll ever read, I promise. But it’s not even his best book. His best book, and a book that I believe may be one of the most underappreciated books EVER written, is an ensemble story called BRIGHT SHINY MORNING. It takes place in LA and we follow a handful of different stories. It is the best book I have ever read, hands down, and I’ve read everything. Frey pulls no punches, holds nothing back, and the ensemble-thing is done like nobody has ever done it before. It’s awesome from start to finish. I vow to you: You will love BSM. And the best (worst) part? Nobody knows about it.

It doesn't matter how many Da Vinci Codes or Water for Elephants you may have read. If you’ve read Kite Runner or this new nonfiction story UNBROKEN. All great books, of course, but James Frey? No way. Not even close to Frey. Frey is like the rebel, the bad boy, the breaking-all-the-rules guy of the literary world. He is touched by God, if God was a bitter, straightforward, no-nonsense SOB. You heard it here first: Frey is the best writer we have.

I say he’s the best because with every book he releases, from his non-fictions to his masterpiece novel to the YA book I AM NUMBER FOUR he wrote under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, he completely transforms himself as an author. Despite the same simple prose, each of his books feels like a different writer is behind them, a different life stance and experience base. Translation: there’s nothing formulaic about this guy. On the other hand, if you've read one Jodi Picoult or one James Patterson, you’ve read them all. Nobody reinvents like J. Frey. Nobody. Take it to the bank.

So why am I ranting about James Frey here and now? I’ll tell you why. Frey is getting ready to pen another piece of art that mixes fact and fiction. It is going to be called (or based on) the Final Testament and/or the Last Book of the Bible. Basically, Frey is going to create a story that has Jesus Christ living in modern-day NYC, performing gay marriages, supporting abortion, and dabbling in prostitution. I know the concept is nothing new, but I promise, Frey will deliver the idea better than anyone else has ever done it, smarter, sharper, more original and crazy. And, if this book is done right, and I think it will be, I believe it could go down as one of the all-time greats, one of those books that's too hot, too edgy to touch, but you have to. If you're a reader, you won't be able to resist it. You'll have to know what he has to say about something so taboo.

To anyone out there that classifies themselves as ‘reader,’ get your Frey-fix now, because when this new book gets pressed everybody’s going to be talking about James Frey for something other than the Oprah Book Club.

Now on Facebook @ the Cat's Pajamas

Brian Huba

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