Monday, May 23, 2011

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible

Warning: Possible spoilers. Depends how picky you are. And contains a touch of crude language. 

I first read James Frey's A Million Little Pieces in 2007, which was after the Oprah controversy (read about that here). I agree with Oprah that he was dishonest, but I didn't care whether it was fact or fiction- really, what difference does it make to me? Worse things than his invented experiences happen every single day. In saying this, I wouldn't name it among my favourite books (which are here, if you're curious). It was a great story, but did drag a big, and his writing style irks me a little- lack of punctuation especially, as well as left aligned pages. I know it's intentional, but unlike the brilliant sporadic punctuation and unconventional format in House of Leaves, I just don't see the point in omitting all quotation marks from character dialogue.

Despite these mixed views on AMLP, I was really looking forward to the release of Frey's latest novel The Final Testament of the Holy Bible. I ordered a copy from Fishpond a couple of weeks ago, and sat down to read it the moment it arrived. Before I get into the actual story, I'd be curious to hear from anyone else who has the paperback edition like me- the cover image is extremely shitty and pixelated (for want of a better technical term) though not so much that it seems intentional. Has anyone else seen this? Did I get a dud?

But hey, I refused to negatively judge the book by its cover... I did, however, make the mistake of getting excited over the synopsis, which shouts

THEY SAY THE MESSIAH IS ALIVE.
HE IS LIVING IN NEW YORK.
SLEEPING WITH MEN.
IMPREGNATING WOMEN.
EUTHANASING THE DYING.
HEALING THE SICK.
DEFYING THE GOVERNMENT AND CONDEMNING THE HOLY.
IF YOU MET HIM AND HE CHANGED YOUR LIFE, WOULD YOU BELIEVE?

To give you some background on my lack of religion- I wasn't baptised, but did go to a Catholic primary school (not something I resent at all- I feel I recieved a brilliant education there), then grew up and realised I didn't believe a word being spoken in mass. I wouldn't call myself an atheist or an agnostic... I honestly just don't really care about religion, and in turn it doesn't really bother me what faith anyone else has. I do however love blasphemous art, I love a bit of controversy, and the concept of the Messiah returning to modern Earth sounded like a brilliant drinking-round-a-campfire conversation, extended into a literary work of art.

The book started off by meeting my expectations. Like the Bible, not a word is told from the "Messiah" Ben Zion's perspective, but through the eyes of twelve other characters. The initial mystery surrounding Ben Zion was effective, and chapters told through the eyes of Mariaangeles and Charles were brilliantly written. In Charles' chapter, Ben Zion is involved in a horrific accident... and everything starts to go downhill from there, until the final few chapters when the story becomes, frankly, ridiculous. Halfway through I could almost hear the screaming I am James Frey, and I got totally got off over offending people on Oprah! How to shock more people? Let's turn the second coming of the Messiah into a satyromaniac!

After about the fifth sexual encounter, it stopped being edgy and challenging and became desperate. The faux preaching dragged on so long near the end, that I started skim reading pages. It was so frustrating to me, as there were brilliant moments scattered throughout the book, such as the following quote (which I cannot be bothered finding in my copy right now, so am trusting the website I found it reproduced on is accurate):

"And that the Catholic Church, filled with celibate men who have no experience with it, has no right telling other people how to love or who to love or what kind of love is right or wrong."

What did I miss? I wanted to like this book so badly, but it was such a disappointment. I'm not one to return a book, whether I like it or not. But I think it's safe to say it won't be emerging from my bookshelf in my own hands any time soon.

4 comments:

Alycia (thecuriouspug.com) said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

i was thinking about reading this book since I just heard about it myself from the oprah show last week :) i'm glad i read your review. it doesn't seem like something i'd enjoy now so thank you for saving me the time lol! i have lots of other books on my wishlist :)

Monica {bohemian twilight} said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

hi there, just stumbled in (from Village i think...)

Well, I missed the whole hoohah about this novel. I can't say the premise grabs me, and now your lukewarm review assures I won't be picking this up.

Too many good books awaitin'!

And belated happey birthday wishes too.

Caitlin said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I liked "A Millions Little Pieces" (that part where he had his teeth taken out ruined my soul for weeks) and I didn't know he had this book out...I appreciated your review on it!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hey - I am really glad to discover this. great job!