Having kept busy plowing the fields of children’s lit, writer and literary industrialist Frey (My Friend Leonard, 2005, etc.) delivers his first adult book in a decade.
Jay is a callous young man, a 21-year-old expat in Paris who is resisting a mapped-out future in which he’ll be “An obedient cog locked in fucking place forever.” A quarter-century later, he’s locked in place in Los Angeles as a bestselling writer—writers, after all, don’t write about unhappy sea captains these days, not when one of their own ilk is available for dissection—whose agent is 10 years his junior and wears a $5,000 suit. What’s to be preferred, a youth of drug-dealing poverty in the City of Lights or a gilded prison in the City of Angels? Easy: When you factor in a torrid season of love with a hot young model then being a cash-strapped kid is infinitely better. Frey takes his presumed alter ego back and forth across the decades, whining and moping and self-medicating (“I played ball and read books and chased girls and got drunk and snorted cocaine”)—and, in his later years, lamenting roads taken and not taken and wishing he had figured out how to do better by the title character. So far, so good; it’s all the stuff of an Ethan Hawke movie, and there’s not a surprising moment in it. What does surprise, perhaps, are Frey’s spasms of high-toned porn, of which perhaps the most-printable-in-a-family-publication passage is something like this: “We both move toward each other kissing deeply slowly heavily, lips and tongues, her hands are immediately in my pants, I lift her off the ground set her on the sink tear off her thong.” James Joyce it ain’t, and though it’s marginally more literate than E.L. James, it’s nothing the aforementioned Mr. Hawke couldn’t pull off on screen and behind the keyboard.
A long-anticipated return that many readers will decide wasn’t worth the wait.