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Predicting the Apocalypse and the Future of Books: An Interview with James Frey

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What if the Messiah were alive today? James Frey, author of the massively successful A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning, attempts to answer that question in his provocative new book The Final Testament of the Holy Bible (available April 22).

But perhaps even more intriguing than Frey's forecasts about the return of Jesus are his predictions on the future of publishing. The Final Testament will be released in two very different forms: as a $10 digital book and a much lovelier, spendier $50 printed book. Frey also plans to show the book off at an exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City.

James Frey was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about The Final Testament as a story, a book, and a piece of art.

Amazon: What inspired the controversial concept behind The Final Testament?

James Frey: It’s something I’ve thought about for 15 years. What would it actually be like if the Messiah arrived, or if Christ returned? Who would that person be, how would they live, what would they believe in, how would we recognize them, and how would society react to them? I don’t claim to have the answers. I just wanted to tell a theoretical version of the story.

[More from James Frey and photos of The Final Testament after the jump.]

Amazon: You've opted to go with the Gagosian Gallery in New York rather than a traditional publisher. Why did you choose a small art gallery over a traditional publishing house?

Frey: Gagosian is the most prestigious gallery in the world. And they publish about 50 books a year--beautiful art books that transcend what a writer can do with a traditional publisher. I wanted to make a beautiful book, an object that people would be proud to own and display,something looked and felt like a real Bible, but more contemporary. I have always said that art influences me more than writing does so the idea of working with a gallery made sense to me.

Amazon: What artists inspired you while writing The Final Testament?

Frey: I looked at a ton of Renaissance religious art, like Michelangelo and Raphael, Carvaggio. Some of the sculpture Rodin made. Illuminated manuscripts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There is a much greater and more substantial body of religious art than there is religious literature.

Amazon: Could you talk about the design of the book? How involved were you in the process?

Frey: I was very involved in every step of it, in every decision related to it. I worked with a design firm in London called GTF. They make incredible books, and they were incredible to work with on this project. The goal was to make a beautiful, unique, collectible book.

Amazon: The Final Testament will be released as a limited-edition $50 printed book and a $150 autographed version, but you're self-publishing the ebook at $10. Do you see a future where the printed book is an expensive object intended for collectors while digital copies are for everyone else?

Frey: Absolutely. I think the future of publishing, or one version of it, is in physical books for collectors and serious fans and ebooks for mass distribution. I believe in that future and want to be a part of it as early as possible.

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