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In the bold and heartbreaking My Friend Leonard, James Frey picks up the story of his extraordinary life pretty much where things left off in his breakout bestseller and Amazon.com Best Book of 2003, A Million Little Pieces, the fierce, in-your-face memoir about Frey's kamikaze run of self-destruction and his days in rehab. Fresh from a stint in jail from pre-rehab-related charges ("On my first day in jail, a three hundred pound man named Porterhouse hit me in the back of the head with a metal tray."), clean-living Frey returns to Chicago and gets sucker-punched with a cruel blow that will leave readers ducking for cover in anticipation of the blinding bender that's sure to come. But then the titular Leonard, the larger-than-life Vegas mobster ("West Coast Director of a large Italian finance firm") whom James befriended in rehab, steps into the story and serves equal parts unlikely life coach, guardian angel, and father figure for the grief-stricken author, adopting him as his "son" and schooling him in the fine art of "living boldly":
Be not bold, be f-cking BOLD. Every time you meet someone, make a f-cking impression. Make them think you're the hottest shit in the world. Make them think they're gonna lose their job if they don't give you one. Look 'em in the eye, and never look away. Be confident and calm, be f-cking bold.
Hurricane Leonard storms into James's life, showering his young charge with multi-course feasts at steakhouses and Italian restaurants, courtside seats at Bulls' games, Cuban cigars, and an elaborate Super Bowl party in Los Angeles, all the while doling out wisdom on life and love and motivating James to stick to his burgeoning writing career. James even has a brief stint as an employee of Leonard's, though occupational hazards--like having a nine millimeter shoved in his face--prove too much for the novice bag man (though he does make enough to invest his earnings in a Picasso drawing). When Leonard drops out of sight for an extended period, his absence leaves readers aching to hear the familiar refrain of "My Son!" just one more time.
Frey sticks to the taut, staccato style that shot through A Million Little Pieces with such raw electricity. Surprisingly, the tone feels equally at home with this book's focus on friendship and extreme loyalty, and works to intensify the always-looming, adrenaline-rush threat of violence and the lure of the Fury that courses like a riptide throughout the book. Ultimately, it's a sense of hope, and humor even, that prevails and makes My Friend Leonard a stand-alone success. Despite his shady pedigree, you'll long to have a friend like Leonard just a phone call away. --Brad Thomas Parsons
James Frey's List of Books You Should Read
Tropic of Cancer
The Great Santini
Amazon.com's Significant Seven
James Frey graciously agreed to answer the questions we like to ask every author: the Amazon.com Significant Seven.
Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: Tao te Ching by Lao Tsu. Completely changed how I think, behave, live my life. Nothing else comes close.
Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: The book would be the Tao te Ching, the CD would be some compilation of love songs from the 70s and 80s, and the DVD would be highlights from the history of the Cleveland Browns.
Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: No way I can answer that.
Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: I've been working at the same desk since I started writing. It's old and beaten-up and black. The rest of my workroom is empty, except for some crazy sh-- on the wall in front of me: pictures of people I admire, reproductions of artwork I dig, sayings that motivate me, things like--bare your soul, be bold, page a day motherfu--er page a day. I listen to music while I work, have a pile of nicotine gum and a couple cans of diet coke. My dogs are usually a couple feet away from me. I've always worked this way, probably always will.
Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: "Loved, lost, laughed, left."
Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Winston Churchill
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Starred Review. Frey achieves another stylistic coup as he develops a narrative thread begun in 2003's A Million Little Pieces. He chronicles his journey out of the terrifying darkness of addiction, and the friend he meets along the way, Leonard. A gangster, raconteur and mentor, Leonard was introduced in Pieces as one of Frey's new rehab friends. Here, he pushes Frey out into the world, pampering him one moment, giving him tough love the next. As in Pieces, Frey's style throughout is loose, untraditional yet perfectly crafted: "[Leonard] offered me his hand and said good, I'm fucked up too, and I like fucked-up people, let's sit and eat and see if we can be friends. I took his hand and I shook it and we sat down and we ate together and we became friends." There's something mesmerizing about the endless tumble of words, the nonstop spilling out of Frey's troubles and triumphs. In the hands of a less capable writer, all of this cool, tight narration might numb the reader and distance the experience. Instead, this book packs a full-body emotional wallop. Frey's eye is keen for detail: the inside of a county lockup; the flat, gray Chicago winter; an out-of-control Super Bowl party in Los Angeles; the grind of living day to day—all come alive in his sparse, powerful prose. At its core, this is an examination of a friendship. Frey's extraordinary relationship with Leonard is alive, a flesh-and-blood bond forged in the agony of rehab and sustained through honesty and trust. Agent, Kassie Evashevski at Brillstein/Grey Entertainment. (June)See all Editorial Reviews
James Frey is such a satisfying read. Leonard caught me by surprise and finished the book with a quiet cry. Very moving.Published 19 days ago by Neely Coyote McCormick
Great free style writing. Well paced great read that I couldn't put down. This book reminded me what it feels like to live broken and long for something more. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Citizenmunky
An interesting story. I'm always interested in reading books about the addiction experience, and the road to recovery. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Frey's brutally honest and humorous writing doesn't disappoint as usual, and Leonard definitely came to life as the book progressed. I loved this bookPublished 3 months ago by candace