An Interview with James Frey

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Author James Frey at the Strand Book Store in New York City on July 16, 2008. Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

Your new book follows a modern-day messiah in New York. How did you choose the subject?
I’ve always wondered what it would be like if the Messiah, or Christ Returned, were actually alive and living in our society; who would that person be, how we would identify them, how would they live, and what would they believe in, how would society react to them?

In a recent interview you said your books are still a mix of fact and fiction and will continue to be. What parts of this latest work are factual?
It’s a book. It’s a story. The point of what I do is that it doesn’t really matter what a book or a story is as long it moves you, informs you, challenges you, entertains you, or changes you.

Youre publishing this work in partnership with art dealer Larry Gagosian. Why not go through a standard publishing house?
I wanted to make a really beautiful book. Something readers would be excited to own as an object.

The art world has really embraced you. How are artists different from publishing types?
There are no categories in contemporary art. There are no rules. Artists are given the freedom to make and create whatever they please and call it whatever they please. I identify with that system, or lack of system, much more than I do the landscape of contemporary publishing.

Are you religious?
Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I wish I did, and sometimes I don’t know. I think about it quite a bit, and don’t pretend to have any answers.

What do you make of Pastor Terry Jones, the guy in Florida who burned the Quran?
I don’t think it’s productive or respectful to burn or destroy books of any kind, for any reason.

How will you react if theres no outcry to your book, no burnings?
I’d actually be really happy.

Do you read your reviews?
I do read reviews, and I believe being criticized is part of my job. I don’t fear it or avoid it. I respect the critic’s right to their opinion. And I respect that it is the critic’s job to express it. I like good reviews, and the bad ones usually hurt a little bit.

Are you in touch with Oprah?
I last spoke to Oprah about two years ago.

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