I must admit that apart from children in foster care, there are two other subjects I can’t say „no” to. One of them is anything dystopian, from Orwell’s 1984 to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. The other is any re-telling of the story of Jesus Christ. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is another attempt at doing that. James Frey decided to tell us what he thinks would happen as if Jesus came back to Earth and lived in contemporary world in New York.
First let me just say I hadn’t heard of James Frey despite his apparent fame for being a controversial kind of genius. The reviews or adverts that I read on the net before starting to read the book itself, promised that I was about to experience a masterpiece and I was about to be shocked and my life would never be the same. It did take me only three days to complete it – and it would have taken me only one if I didn’t have to work – but overall it didn’t meet my expectations. Maybe I set them too high.
The beginning was pretty good. It started with Jesus being called Ben and living a simple life of working, drinking and playing video games while living among less fortunate people in one of the poor districts of New York. The story was interesting and the writing was easy to read, not too complicated, and it just moved smoothly forward. Somewhere in the middle it lost its freshness, and though the writing was decent till the end, it left me somewhat disappointed.
The novel is told by a few people’s perspective, each of them had met Ben on their way, and each of them was changed by Him. It was a little hard for me to keep tracks of all of them, but I consider it only a mild disadvantage. Also, all of Ben’s (or Jesus’) words were written in red. I’m not quite sure the point of it, but I found it rather neutral, I must say. Besides that, the dialogues were incorporated in the text, most of the times, and none of them had proper punctuation. I have seen this before in Jose Saramago’s work, so again – neutral for me. Though I must admit, still easier to read than Jose Saramago’s novels.
I was also a little disappointed that Jesus was born into a Jewish family again. I sort of hoped that the author would be truly original and would make his Jesus a Latino or a black person, or a Chinese, or at least some atheists’ son. Or maybe – gasp – a woman? Just to prove that Jesus could be anybody, because He came to everybody, not only Jews as the “chosen nation.” But no, it was like in the Bible –Jewish family and unexplained pregnancy. I guess it didn’t matter later on, because Ben was treating everyone the same – that is, he LOVED everybody.
And by love I mean he loved them both mentally and physically. He was screwing the majority of people who he came in contact with, both men and women. It made them happy and free, because the only thing that could make us close to heaven is orgasm – as stated in the book. I don’t have problems with Jesus making love to people, but it was just too much screwing, so it became pointless and repetitive.
According to Ben, the only thing that matters is the life we have now. God doesn’t give a crap about us, doesn’t even know we exist. When we die, it’s over. Religions are the main cause of evil in this world. Religion and greed. The reason for the coming end of the world is not God or Apocalypse, but humans, who hate each other instead of loving each other. Except for love, what is godly in this world is freedom to do what we want and to respect others as they are.
To sum up – modern Jesus in New York was a little hippie. Minus the drugs.
However unoriginal I might proclaim this book, it does present some views that I agree with. That organized religions have done a lot of harm in the history of our world – and are still doing today. That love is the most important thing, rather than hate. Plus, I do have a soft spot for hippies.
That being said, there are some inconsistencies, also. For example, if God doesn’t care about us, why does He speak to Ben and why did He send Ben to Earth in the first place? If all religions are basically bullshit, why did Ben have to be a freaking Jew and why did he have all the signs of the Messiah, as described in the Bible? Why couldn’t He have been a Latino, as I was hoping before I had started reading?
I am not sure how to rate this book. It was announced to be outrageous and a masterpiece, and for me it was neither. At the beginning, the story was good; and the ideas incorporated there were mostly true. However, they weren’t original. Also, the message of love was too repetitive. I got it the first few times, you don’t have to repeat it for half of the book. Besides, all the fucking of people was just too much and I thought it was unnecessary. It seemed like the author wanted to shock so much that it became pathetic and distasteful.
But that’s just my opinion. Despite all that, I’d still say it’s a good read – if you don’t expect too much of it.