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Peter T Chattaway

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible

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Rumpus Original – An Interview with James Frey

SE: Now this is a book about a man, a carpenter.

Frey: 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?

SE: I remember you saying he would perform gay marriages.

Frey: Absolutely.

SE: And he would live with a prostitute.

Frey: Love is love. It doesn’t matter how or who you love. I don’t believe the messiah would condemn gay men and women. It addresses the supernatural aspects of religion, how we need to think of religion given the technology available to us. We know have the power of God in many ways: the atomic bomb, the ability to create life in a test tube, cloning, artificial intelligence.

SE: What’s Judas like today?

Frey: A human. Same as he was two thousand years ago. A selfish man who thinks of himself before the good of humanity, who values money more than love. . . .

TheRumpus.net, December 10, 2008

Novel faces unholy uproar

Controversial author James Frey is set to ignite another firestorm with his new book, "The Final Testament of the Holy Bible," in which the second coming of Christ takes place in The Bronx projects -- but the Messiah turns out to be a former alcoholic who impregnates a prostitute.

Frey -- who was famously ripped apart on TV by Oprah Winfrey and ostracized by the literary community over his partly fabricated memoir, "A Million Little Pieces" -- has sidestepped traditional publishers and teamed up with gallery owner Larry Gagosian, who will publish just 11,000 copies in the US while Frey will self-publish online.

His Messiah, Ben Jones, starts off as a lonely alcoholic bachelor living in a filthy apartment. He survives a horrific work accident, but strange things then happen that lead to him being recognized as the Messiah. Ben also smokes pot, has sex with a prostitute and makes out with men. . . .

New York Post, March 14, 2011

James Frey pens modern-day 'Holy Bible'

Just in: James Frey, controversial author of A Million Little Pieces, has penned a new work, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

Gagosian Gallery has announced the book will have have a limited U.S. print run of 10,000 slipcased leatherette copies, as well as 1,000 collector's editions signed and numbered by the author. The book will be released on Good Friday, April 22. He is self-publishing e-editions of the book.

According to Gagosian, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is "the story of Ben Zion Avrohom, also known as Ben Jones, also known as the Messiah, also known as the Lord God. Though he is the Messiah, Ben is not the man to whom Christians have prayed for the past two thousand years." . . .

USA Today, March 14, 2011

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And people wonder why no one reads books any more.

Heh. That comment reminds me of Tom Wolfe's disparagement of Updike's Gertrude and Claudius. IIRC, his point was that no reader in their right mind would care about what happened before Hamlet starts. Of course, Wolfe had his own axe to grind; he was busy promoting his "journalistic" approach to the novel.

OTOH, this project doesn't sound too different from some Christian novels (Joshua, for instance?). Except, of course, that Frey's Jesus coincidentally likes the things Frey likes just as I presume Girzone's Joshua happens to like the things Girzone likes (I've only seen the--very poor--movie adaptation, so I wouldn't want to be too dogmatic on the subject). Funny how that works out.

EDIT: I think it should be pointed out that not only is Frey the author of the not-exactly-true memoir A Million Little Pieces (interesting questions about the nature of memoir, there) but he seems to be positioning himself as the heir to Edward Stratmeyer. Of course, he thinks his syndicate idea is unique. Whatever. :P

Edited by NBooth

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OTOH, this project doesn't sound too different from some Christian novels (Joshua, for instance?). Except, of course, that Frey's Jesus coincidentally likes the things Frey likes just as I presume Girzone's Joshua happens to like the things Girzone likes (I've only seen the--very poor--movie adaptation, so I wouldn't want to be too dogmatic on the subject). Funny how that works out.

I suppose Girzone's book wasn't, strictly speaking, any more necessary than Frey's. The only detail about Joshua I can remember is that various churches commission wood carvings from the Jesus character, and he shakes those churches up by ignoring what they ask for in terms of content and instead making carvings on themes that hit the churches right in their particular theological blind spots. I kind of liked that ... it did seem like something Jesus would do.

Frey's book just sounds like a mishmash of things that have been done before: Corpus Christi meets the Book of Hosea meets The Last Temptation of Christ meets David Wojnarowicz. It would be a very rare work of fiction indeed that takes the Messiah as its subject and yet succeeds in being a True Work of Art with anything more than an Ax to Grind or a series of Points to Make.

Edited by mrmando

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It would be a very rare work of fiction indeed that takes the Messiah as its subject and yet succeeds in being a True Work of Art with anything more than an Ax to Grind or a series of Points to Make.

Indeed.

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It would be a very rare work of fiction indeed that takes the Messiah as its subject and yet succeeds in being a True Work of Art with anything more than an Ax to Grind or a series of Points to Make.

Has this ever been done? The only one I can think of that comes close is Robert Graves's King Jesus.

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It would be a very rare work of fiction indeed that takes the Messiah as its subject and yet succeeds in being a True Work of Art with anything more than an Ax to Grind or a series of Points to Make.

Has this ever been done? The only one I can think of that comes close is Robert Graves's King Jesus.

I would love to read a Michael Chabon novel where the Messiah is more than just part of the subtext.

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It would be a very rare work of fiction indeed that takes the Messiah as its subject and yet succeeds in being a True Work of Art with anything more than an Ax to Grind or a series of Points to Make.

Has this ever been done? The only one I can think of that comes close is Robert Graves's King Jesus.

I would love to read a Michael Chabon novel where the Messiah is more than just part of the subtext.

Are you referring to The Yiddish Policeman's Union here?

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I am personally tired of these books being newsworthy or controversial. I've seen no evidence that James Frey can write on the level even of Tom Clancy or Mary Higgins Clark for instance. And Clancy and Clark are poor writers. There is nothing of high lasting quality to their English prose anymore than that of Dean Koontz, James Patterson or Dan Brown (and some other bestsellers).

Dan Brown only became more popular because so many Christians, in the full light of the public square, decided to criticize the made-up crap in his novels. He never would have sold as many books if Christians had simply dismissed his works as poorly written (but wait, I suppose they can't do that while they are reading the Left Behind novels, can they? Damn it.).

I believe it is Biblical to seek out what is true, right, admirable, praiseworthy, excellent, and beautiful. The more I read, the more I realize that there is more great literature out there (excellently written, concerning what is true, noble and lovely, etc.) than is possible for me to be able to read all of it in my lifetime. Therefore, I have no time for bad quality writing like Tom Clancy or Tim LaHaye, anymore than I have time to spend reading bad quality writing like Dan Brown or James Frey.

If a good writer actually writes a good book that is heretical, then we'll talk. But simply relying on controversy (of whatever stripe) to sell your crap writing is old schtick, pulled off by Gore Vidal before Frey, and pulled off by others before Vidal.

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I am personally tired of these books being newsworthy or controversial.

You're not the only one:

"I'm sure the religious right will go crazy," Frey said. Well, at least someone is sure. But since Philip Pullman barely raised a snort from them with "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" last year -- and that was a famous atheist's revisionist account of the historical Jesus, not just a fancifully smutty imagining of his second coming -- I would not advise the author to hold his breath.

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"Religious right" writer/scholar John Mark Reynolds has better things to do & read than be "outraged"; nearing his conclusion, he writes:

My lengthy reaction could convince ... Frey, that he “still matters.” Sadly, he is just the best example to cross my desk in a very long time of a tendency that corrupts many of us who write as part of our jobs. Frey has not outraged me, but he has caused me to examine my own heart.

Am I a coward? If I see someone from my team fail, I must not wimp out if it is appropriate for me to respond.

Am I pompous? Do I really think folks need to read all my thoughts on every issue? Pride and love cannot coexist and yet still I am too often motivated by egoism and not charity.

Am I well read enough? I must make time to read more books that challenge my assumptions and worldview.

Am I a bigot? Do I make assumptions about “liberals” or the “other” that are uncharitable and unfounded? Do I love my enemies and pray for them?

Am I rude? Do I attack God’s enemies in a way that leaves room for redemption?

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