From the author of A Million Little Pieces, a love story alternating between 1992 Paris and Los Angeles in 2018. At its center are a young writer and a young model on the verge of fame, both reckless, impulsive, addicted, and deeply in love. Twenty-five years later, the writer is rich, famous, and numb, and he wants to drive his car into a tree, when he receives an anonymous message that draws him back to the life, and possibly the love, he abandoned years prior.
Whatever else you might say about Frey, he possesses in spades the key quality for success in the twenty-first century: shamelessness ... Henry Miller is the clear inspiration, but the sex in Katerina reminded me less of Tropic of Cancer and more of the scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin in which Steve Carell’s character tries to bluff his way through a conversation about women by comparing breasts to bags of sand. Where Miller was, at the very least, inventively crude, Frey is artificial and bland ... Frey clearly wants you to read this soliloquy as an earnest challenge he’s offering himself in real life. If it is, Katerina is a particularly damp response. But I’m not sure I can give him even that much credit. It’s hard to imagine that Frey genuinely believes the story of a young man and his model girlfriend screwing in Paris will 'burn the world down.' But someone with experience in the publishing industry, and with producing young-adult fiction, might recognize that a melodramatic and slightly seedy romance with a tinge of newsy metatextual frisson is an eminently marketable book ripe for a Hollywood studio to option ... It’s possible that Katerina is an utterly heartfelt novel, and that Frey is an authentically inept writer, rather than a calculatingly bad one. But how could anyone tell? When you build a career as a cynical fraud, even your incompetence becomes suspicious.
James Frey’s first adult novel in 10 years, claims Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer as its literary North Star...Unfortunately, Jay’s Paris lacks the soul, guts and groin of Miller’s rendering, reading more like a student’s account of his study abroad ... Even when wet, Katerina is ever the dry fantasy, tossing off orgasm after orgasm from penetration alone. Each of Jay’s women — and there are several in the book—is also suspiciously easily-turned-on. A quickie against a car with a college ex results in simultaneous orgasms that leave her 'shaking.' One wonders if our protagonist knows what cunnilingus is at all? ... Jay’s libertine dreams similarly leave the reader cold. He frequently professes a desire to 'burn the world down,' but one wonders which world he is talking about exactly ... With Katerina, the question of autobiography doesn’t matter so much. Regardless of how true this tale is to Frey’s own personal story, the fictional version cries out for a richer, more succulent imagining.
Those who have had the misfortune to come across a stranger masturbating in public usually feel a mixture of shock, revulsion and embarrassment. Much the same emotions are engendered when, on page three of James Frey’s much-awaited and largely autobiographical new novel, the protagonist, Jay, announces: 'Follow your heart and follow your cock.' Over the course of the book’s unedifying length, there is a great deal about Jay’s cock, and its machinations, which is described in tedious detail. What is never supplied is a reason why the reader should engage with Frey’s pretentious and vacuous alter ego ... Frey has created a loathsome character whose antediluvian attitudes towards anyone who isn’t male, American and 'a writer' make this an unappealing and old-fashioned wallow in glorifying empty masculine privilege. Were Harvey Weinstein not awaiting trial on charges of sexual assault, he would undoubtedly be first in line to buy the film rights ... The controversy behind A Million Little Pieces once threatened to derail Frey’s career. Fifteen years and many million sales later, the dreadful Katerina represents a new and, in its own perverse way, impressive attempt at career suicide. If this is to be his epitaph, let it at least be said of him that he followed his heart – and his cock.