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My Friend Leonard Paperback – May, 2006
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"As smart as it is heartfelt, this tribute to friendship is a far sunnier book than Frey's debut.... Frey's cool, shrewd eye for detail ties it all together, whether he's describing the inside of a jail, a Super Bowl party, or the plaintive rootlessness of life in Los Angeles." —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"he engrossing story of a bizarre friendship between the author and a dangerous mobster." —People
"Frey's appeal lies in his ability to tell his down and dirty, hair-raising story in sparse, hypnotic prose--in this sense he's already a master stylist, of kind. No subject , no height or depth of human experience is too extreme for him to come around on with deadeye grace and force of his beautiful, sad, potent, irresistible prose." —Elle
"Has a ferocity and a narrative drive that won't surprise Frey's fans, but is full of unexpected heart that might." —Details
“Suffused with anger and regret, written by a man who has straddled the line between life and death and has taken his time figuring out which side he wants to jump to. He spares no gory details.” —Poets & Writers Magazine (cover story)
"Brave and bold... This is not a document but a rendering, just as Van Gogh's self-portrait distorts his face to capture the riot of emotions behind the eyes... Frey describes how he put feelings back into his life, and the effect is vivid, splashy, mesmerizing. Indeed, he has put the Technicolor back into the memoir." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Examines [Frey’s] relationship with the title figure, a Las Vegas mobster who helps him through rehab, jail and the terrifying terrain of sobriety…a tender story of male friendship.” —Chicago Tribune
“My Friend Leonard is just as compelling as the first book, with the same electrifying narrative energy, stylistic daring and atmosphere of emotional risk…Frey is exceptionally good at conveying the emotional truths behind the events he relates. His portrait of his friendship with Leonard is deeply resonant and offers a fuller human portrait of a gangster than you’re likely to find anywhere else.” —Bookpage
“[A] great story by a talented writer.” —Wisconsin State Journal
“[A] must-read.” —Sacramento Bee"
What makes the book as difficult and challenging as its predecessor is Frey’s ability to meet his new losses head-on. What makes it more inspiring is his determination to see things through, without the drugs as a crutch, to their unfortunate, heartbreaking end...Frey succeeds in making Leonard cut fast and close to the core." —Time Out New York
"Frey achieves another stylistic coup... Frey's style throughout is loose, untraditional, but perfectly crafted... This book packs a full emotional wallop... Frey's extraordinary relationship with Leonard is alive, a flesh-and-blood bond." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A fine, grim tale full of smarting immediacy… A small fortune could be made by bottling this story and selling it as an antidote to self-pity. Frey will have to settle for the small fortune it will make in big sales.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“A raw, often visceral, reading experience. With Frey’s emotions so close to the surface, it’s impossible not to care about Frey’s struggles to reintegrate into society and prosper. Another powerful read from a talented, dynamic author.” —Booklist (starred, boxed review)
About the Author
James Frey is the author of the memoir A Million Little Pieces.
Author photo by Annelore Van Herjiwen
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It begins with Frey in jail for a brief period following his completion of drug and alcohol rehab, then getting out of jail and receiving some horrific news (this news is actually revealed in the epilogue of AMLP, but further detail is given in this narrative). In the aftermath of an event that severely rattles James's recently-free-from-jail existence, he comes dangerously close to undoing everything he accomplished in rehab by dealing with extreme temptation to drink again (which would inevitably lead to harder substances). This battle with the harsh echoes of Frey's past addiction are prominent in the first half of the story, and he even keeps a sealed bottle of cheap wine with him at all times as a reminder to not drink; a defiant expression of great willpower to refuse alcohol, even though it is available to him every moment.
Before long, Leonard is introduced: a charming, handsome, mysteriously wealthy fifty-something whom James had met and befriended while they were in rehab together. Leonard seeks Frey out and expresses a desire to `adopt' him in a way; to look out for James and care for him in a father-like relationship. Mind you, Frey is jobless and completely broke upon leaving jail, meanwhile fighting grief and teetering on the edge of falling back into addiction. Leonard has a particular fondness for James, as well as the means to provide for him, so their relationship is taken to a new level which changes James's life in some big ways. Leonard even takes to calling James `My son' for the remainder of the book, and while Frey finds this somewhat silly and strange, he is thankful to have such a generous friend in a dark time.
James makes his way through several ultra low-end jobs, including one as a bouncer at a dive bar. Eventually he is offered a position by Leonard, a position that is very loose and undefined, even a bit shady. James earns a great deal of money by running `errands' for Leonard, though he spends very little of it and does not count his wealth as much.
This description so far probably sounds very simple and rather uninteresting. The narrative is simple, but not in a boring or pointless way. It is, at the heart, the story of a man unfolding and coming to a place where he is finally taking care of himself, growing up, and finding joy in places other than self-destruction. This comes through great pain and loss, but the redemptive quality is thus all the more sweet. This is also the story of a deep and sacred friendship, one that mirrors the best father/son scenario one could imagine.
James Frey's writing is loose and minimalist in the sense that he intentionally excludes most punctuation, save periods and commas, and also utilizes multiple run-on sentences. While these two qualities may sound like simply the bad habits of a lazy writer, they are executed so well that it ends up giving the piece a very stark, human-thought-process sort of realism. When things get intense or very sad and the character smashes four or five sentences into one mad dash, the severity of the moment is felt because that's the way our minds tend to blur everything together under stress. At other points his dialogue is defined by beautiful, subtle honesty, and it is through the conversations in the book (including the ones going on in James's head) that really bring out the true attributes of each character.
My Friend Leonard was an easy read and a poetic delight. The story is plain in subject, but rich in character, delicate observation, and authentic interactions. Like everything I've read from Frey, there is great humor in this story, as well as loss and sadness that are gripping around your heart to rip it violently out of your chest. Again, this is how life is, is it not?
If you've not read A Million Little Pieces, I would recommend being introduced to Frey's work that way, though it is not necessary material to enjoy My Friend Leonard as a stand-alone. Either way, I would highly recommend any and all of his books to any reader with an appreciation for real people going through real circumstances interlaced with lovely prose and keen observation.
Love this book even more than a million pieces! The reason for 4 /5 stas is because he married the neighbor girl! He didn't even explain or go into detail about how and when. Other then that it was perfect.
I do feel bad for his wife though because if she reads this she will read some pretty awful stuff about past gfs
Some of the story gets a tad slow in the middle, but toward the end it does move better. Personally I enjoy James Frey's style of writing although the editor in me kind of gets annoyed with the run on sentences and missing commas and periods, but he is utilizing the same style of storytelling as in 'A Million Little Pieces.' I think that his style had more impact in his first novel rather than in this one, but it's very "him" and I like it.
I was very interested to read about James' life and how he did turn things around for himself and I found myself continuing to be interested throughout 'My Friend Leonard.' I felt all of the emotions he wanted me to feel in the end and I enjoy the fact that James knows how to tell his story in his own words. I like that he touched my heart in his portrayal of Leonard and it almost feels like I knew Leonard myself.
I highly recommend reading this especially if you enjoyed 'A Million Little Pieces' because it just completes his first novel and gives us some closure.
Read this book - you will NOT be disappointed.
Most recent customer reviews
James Frey's sequel was in my opinion even better than the first book.Read more