Wednesday, January 27, 2010

James Frey (My Friend Leonard)

My Friend Leonard picks up where the controversial novel A Million Little Pieces left off. It's the story of James, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who has just been released from jail. His girlfriend Lilly had committed suicide, he has no money, no job and no place to stay. As he tries to deal with his grief and begins to rebuild his life, he turns to his friend Leonard who becomes his second father, his confidant, his savior and his protector. An unlikely angel with his violent past and illegal business dealings. The novel speaks of faith and loss of it, of little triumphs and constant struggles, of friendship, unwavering loyalty and love.

My Friend Leonard unfolds beautifully-- despite its deliberate lack of punctuation and the stream-of-consciousness treatment. It is earnest and emotionally powerful without being overly dramatic. The ebb and flow is graceful and languid, with sentiment masterfully interspersed with bubbling hilarity. Three hundred fifty-seven pages of raw feeling.

I had thought twice about reading this for the A-Z Challenge because, when I leafed through it, I noticed the drawn out sentences in need of commas. I assumed that it would be boring, or at least too slow-paced. And, well, the dust jacket was pink and I have an unequivocal loathing for most things pink. It was a toss up between Frey and Fielding, and Frey won because at the time I was more inclined to reading a novel about drugs and depravity than one akin to Bridget Jones' Diary. I loved My Friend Leonard, and the character to whom the title refers. Leonard is loud and funny, mysterious and menacing. He's hedonistic and immoderate, he's excessively and delightfully cocky. His personality seems to burgeon from a body unable to contain it.

I came up from the book teary-eyed and giddy with something resembling admiration and sympathy for a character named Leonard--I couldn't care less if he's an element of fiction or a real person in a memoir. Everyone needs a Leonard to have dinner with and watch his back.

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