James Frey’s sexy new novel stars a writer who’s a literary fraud. Sound familiar?

“Do you ever think of me?”


“I think of you every day.”


“Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.”

James Frey’s new novel, “Katerina” (Scout Press, 306 pp., ★★½ out of four), begins with anonymous texting, a voice from the past, setting into motion a cinematic plot that straddles 25 years. Taking place, alternatively, between 2017 Los Angeles and 1992 Paris, this is a love story gone awry, a coming-of-age tale that ages before your very eyes into a troubling midlife crisis.

The protagonist, Jay, is 21 and in college when he reads Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” and feels inspired to write the Great American Novel that will “burn the world down.”

Pretentious, wanna-be novelist Jay leaves his college sweetie, quits school, sells cocaine to bankroll his habit and literary fantasy, goes to Paris and succumbs to an edgy, artsy, debauched lifestyle. When he falls madly for a young, beautiful, red-haired, fashion model from Oslo named Katerina, things get better – and then they don’t.

Fast-forward to Los Angeles 25 years later. Forty-something, wearily successful writer Jay hates himself and his life. It’s everything his faux-bohemian self once vowed it would never become – lovely wife, two children, mortgage, three cars, housekeeper.

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