We never set out to hate James Frey. We once worked for a woman who was friends with his wife, Maya, way B.O. (Before Oprah). We remember when she went to the book party for A Million Little Pieces and brought a copy back for us. We were done with it within a day or so. We loved it. We referenced “the Fury” in day-to-day conversation with friends. We developed an addiction to addiction literature. And then we went to hear him read at BookCourt in Brooklyn.
This was B.O. too, but it was the beginning of our hate affair with James Frey. We remember walking away from that evening feeling totally let down. The ex-junkie in A Million Little Pieces seemed nothing like the soft spoken man who stood before us; to add insult to injury (and this was a few years back, so our memory might be coloring things) Frey quietly explained that his writing style was a deliberate affectation designed to launch him into the literary big leagues. Suddenly the run-on sentences in his memoir were more annoying than charming.
Then there was Oprah. Which meant our mom wouldn’t stop talking about him.
Then there was the Scandal.
Then there was Oprah again, when she attacked and made him grovel.
But for some reason we still felt the need to read My Friend Leonard, the book that picks up in Frey’s life where A Million Little Pieces left off. Perhaps because it was pink. It made us cry, but the writing felt different — a little more robotic — so when Bright Shiny Morning (his sprawling novel about L.A.) came out last spring to mixed reviews, we didn’t bother to pick up a copy. We thought we were done with James Frey for good (he has a three book deal with Harper Collins, so we were being naive), or at least for the next year or so.
And then last week, he popped up in the most unlikely of places — as Sheila McClear’s intern at Gawker, a fact which we found inexplicably annoying (maybe we have a secret wish to intern there?). And that’s even after this exchange, which was funny enough that it almost won us back over:
Reader: “James, did you ever want to say to Oprah, ‘hey, I’m a writer, what the fuck does it matter if my story was true or not? Do people actually think all the shit Hunter Thompson wrote about was true? So what if the publishing house had me pretend my story was true to sell more books. It’s hard to make money as a writer. I created words that moved people which is a lot more than most writers are able to accomplish so what is the big fucking deal. I don’t write for the New York Times, I write books for Christ’s sakes. Oh, and guess what, Oprah, the stories in Penthouse Letters are fake and there is no Carolyn Keene.”
James Frey: “Yeah, I did. But no one wanted to hear it. They just wanted to yell at me, which was weird and kind of funny. I remember being booed by the audience and laughing, which didn’t make them want to stop booing me.”
It’s only been a week, but Frey has resurfaced in an interview with Stephen Elliot and he’s pissing us off all over again because he’s writing a book about Jesus: “It’s the third book of the Bible, called The Final Testament of the Holy Bible. My idea of what the Messiah would be like if he were walking the streets of New York today. What would he believe? What would he preach? How would he live? With who?”
Why in the name of all that is holy would you tackle a subject like Jesus when you’re James FREAKING Frey unless you’re just a controversy whore with a huge chip on your shoulder because everyone hated you for lying about how tough you were in rehab? It almost makes us believe that the original con/ensuing public scandal was 100 percent intentional — which is nuts!