Sunday, 17 April 2011

Book of the Week - James Frey, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible

This is a book which will strongly divide opinion, much like James Frey himself. Frey is a controversial figure, who came to prominence as a result of a critically acclaimed autobiography (A Million Little Pieces) which was eventually revealed as having significant fictitious elements. Oprah Winfrey was among those who felt they had been defrauded by Frey, who was dropped by his agent, and his publisher was forced to offer compensation to readers who felt they had been cheated by subsequent revelations about the book. Nonetheless, many agree that Frey is a talented writer (A Million Little Pieces was voted book of the year by editors), and he has remained prominent on the literary scene (for instance, contributing to I am Four by Pittacus Lore, which did well last year).

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is a reinvention of the Gospel story in which the Messiah figure is born in contemporary New York. This is by no means an original concept, but Frey’s approach is typically provocative and sure to offend many. Critical responses are widely at variance (see for instance, strongly negative and positive reviews from the Guardian on successive days). Frey had difficulty finding a US publisher, perhaps not surprising given the nature of the book, so the book is self published (appearing on Good Friday) with a trade edition and a 1000 copy signed and limited edition at $150 from the Gagosian art gallery. In the UK, John Murray agreed to publish and the UK edition appears to be the true first. There is a 1000 copy signed and slipcased edition available on Amazon UK for £21 which seems very good value. Frey has the talent to be a significant literary figure for years to come, but I suspect this book will not be for everyone.

"James Frey isn't like other writers. 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. Published in 38 languages, and beloved by readers around the world. What scares people about Frey is that he plays with truth; that fine line between fact and fiction. Now he has written his greatest work, his most revolutionary, his most controversial. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

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?

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible . It will change you. Hurt you. Scare you. Make you think differently. Live differently. Enrage you. Offend you. Open your eyes to the world in which we live. We've waited 2,000 years for the Messiah to arrive. We've waited 2,000 years for this book to be written. He was here. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is the story of his life."

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