James Frey has never been shy about his towering literary ambition. Since he burst onto the scene in with A Million Little Pieces , the best-selling, highly charged memoir dissecting his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, Frey has ruffled feathers and raised temperatures by saying things like:.
I'm in this to be one of the great writers of my time. What is often left out of the accounts of Frey's supposed overreaching is what he usually says next: "I don't say that I am one of the great writers, which I think is an important distinction. But that's the ambition, for sure. I want to be read in 75 years.
Whether Frey's new book, My Friend Leonard , will be read in 75 years is, of course, impossible to say.
But it will certainly be read - widely read - this year. While somewhat different in tone from Pieces there is more humor and less rage, for example My Friend Leonard is just as compelling as the first book, with the same electrifying narrative energy, stylistic daring and atmosphere of emotional risk.
My Friend Leonard takes up about where Pieces left off. Out of recovery, Frey does a stint in jail for a past drug conviction, then sets out to rebuild his life.
He is advised and assisted at critical junctures by his friend Leonard, a larger-than-life Las Vegas gangster 30 years his senior whom he met in rehab and who has decided to treat Frey like the son he never had. Leonard helps Frey financially by employing him occasionally as a bagman for some of his enterprises. He guides Frey through the purchase of his first Picasso.
He uses a little unfriendly persuasion when Frey's neighbor seems about to turn murderous after an incident between their dogs.
Skeptical readers might wonder if Leonard is a sort of idealized, if hard-bitten, fairy godfather. But Frey says otherwise. Yeah, it did. My girlfriend killed herself the way I wrote it. Leonard helped me the way I said he helped me, died the way he died. The events in the book are the events of my life. But that's not to say that I didn't pick and choose what to use and how to use it.
The goal was to write a great book, to create something that somebody will feel good about having read. Genre: Memoir.
Note that this annotation contains spoilers. The sequel to A Million Little Pieces see this database , Frey's follow-up memoir begins with James serving time in an Ohio prison for crimes he had committed while an addict. On his release, he goes to Chicago where he plans to reunite with his girlfriend, Lilly, and start a new life.
The ability to evoke compassion and sympathy for a character, to make you feel part of their destiny is what makes "My Friend Leonard" so engaging. While in rehab, James Frey finds a father figure in a shady mafia boss called Leonard. When Delia Owens was growing up in Thomasville, Georgia, her mother encouraged her to venture Unsure where to turn, he calls Leonard. In the searing fourth novel in the Mastered Series, following Unraveled, only one woman can set a hardened fighter free from his past. Frey's publisher stated that while it initially stood by him, after further questioning of the author, the house has "sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished. My Friend Leonard is the story of an extraordinary friendship formed in the most unlikely circumstances.
As soon as he arrives at the halfway house where she was living, he discovers that she had committed suicide the night before. Shattered again, he tries to establish himself in Chicago without relapsing with notable bravado: working as a bouncer in various bars. His friend and "father" Leonard, a mobster who unofficially adopted him during their stint in rehab together, as chronicled in A Million Little Pieces, tries to help him get on his feet financially.
After a period as a runner for the mob, James decides to move to Los Angeles to become a writer, with some success. Leonard remains a benevolent father-figure and as their friendships develops, the larger-than-life Leonard and his mob henchman meet James's friends, his family, his girlfriends, even his girlfriends' families--until Leonard disappears.
James eventually locates Leonard, and discovers that Leonard is gay, has AIDS, and the two of them spend Leonard's last few days together. For those who found James Frey's first memoir compelling, this sequel has many of the same strengths a formidable prose style that is often as compelling as it is uncompromising and some of the same weaknesses a tendency to state the obvious; the unabashed sentimentality that may temper the machismo but can also be rather maudlin.
The weaknesses are a little bit less forgivable in this sequel.
In A Million Little Pieces the narrator was an entirely fractured man, a wreck rejecting any kindness and love: the moments of obviousness and sentimentality seemed to be a rediscovery of the banal everyday pleasures he had lost sight of in his addiction. On the other hand, in My Friend Leonard, the narrator is having some mild successes in Hollywood with his writing which was true of James Frey at the time , but the same tendency to let sentimentality slip into the melodramatic seems like the sign of weak writing rather than a revelation in itself.