Exclusive Excerpt from James Frey’s New Book Katerina!
Love, sex, drugs, and dreams. This is Katerina, at least on the surface. From James Frey—the author of A Million Little Pieces, a sensational memoir injected with fiction—comes a new novel brimming with the personal truths of memoir.
Alternating between time frames, Katerina is ultimately a love story driven by complex, captivating characters. Jay lives in present-day Los Angeles with his wife and children. He is rich, famous, and entirely disillusioned when he receives an anonymous message, which draws his consciousness back to 1992 Paris, twenty-six years earlier. Jay, then an aspiring writer entrenched in the debaucheries of an American youth in Paris, meets the gorgeous, sharp-witted Katerina. When Writer Boy finally looks up from his notebook to see Model Girl, appropriately framed by Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, there is no turning back. Not for him and not for us. The romance is sweeping, erotic, hopeful, yet ultimately crushing.
Read about the moment when Jay and Katerina first meet:
Sitting on a bench in front of The Gates of Hell. Sun is hot, high and shining the museum just opened it’s the middle of summer if I want any peace here, any time alone with The Gates, I have to come before the crowds arrive. I have a bottle of water a pack of cigarettes one of my notebooks a pocketful of black pens. I’m writing…. I stare at the black ink on brown paper. I listen to the sound the pen makes as I move, see the marks appear. And I believe, in a way that could never be taught, that at some point I’ll be able to do what I want to do, to write what I see and feel and hear. If I sit and work and believe long enough, maybe a year, maybe five, maybe ten, maybe twenty-five, what’s in my head will match what is on paper.
As I stare at the notebook, and think about the next word, and feel the morning sun on my face and arms, and listen to the birds in the trees above me, and smell the bread of some local boulangerie, and taste the remains of the black coffee I drank on my way here, I feel someone moving toward me, I hear footsteps on the gravel path, a shadow passes over. I don’t look up. I know there’s an empty bench a few feet away but the person sits next to me. There are two feet of space between us. I glance down, I see a pair of black Converse All Stars, short black socks, long thin pale legs. I think about moving, or turning away, figure the person will take whatever picture they want to take, move on. And so I stare at the black ink on brown paper at the empty space on the page that I am going to fill. And as I think, I hear a voice.
What are you writing?
A woman, though I knew that already. Slight accent on the English that I can’t specifically place, though I’d guess somewhere in Scandinavia. Voice is sweet and low, like coffee with a little cream and ten spoonfuls of sugar. I don’t look up, or respond. I hear some rustling in a bag, a lighter ignite, and the intake of breath, I smell tobacco, the harsh and delightful odor of relief and addiction. I hear the voice again, don’t look up.
You’re playing hard to get. That’s kind of cute.
Chuckle, but don’t look.
You can look at me. I’m not Medusa. You won’t turn to stone.
You’re a stubborn one. At least answer my question, I’m curious.
What am I writing?
None of your goddamn business.