A Man Walks Into a
At the end of the novel, James is released from rehab and
picked up by his little brother. James asks his brother to take him to a bar,
and because James is the most stubborn person on the planet (and because his brother,
like the rest of his family, seems to be a grade-A enabler), he agrees to take him there.
That's right: Big Bro takes just-released-from-rehab Little
Bro to a bar.
There, James orders a giant glass of whiskey and gives that
glass the staring contest to end all staring contests.
Then he just decides not to drink it.
I have a decision to make. It's a simple decision. It
has nothing to do with God or Twelve of anything other than twelve beats of my
heart. Yes or not. It is a simple decision. Yes or no. (4.4.242)
So, he picks no and lives happily ever after. Easy, right?
Is this a show of James's near-inhuman level of willpower
(only 2% of people succeed at rehab without using the Twelve-Step program,
according to the book), or is it a slap in the face to other people who have
gone through rehab, as if James is saying: "It's so easy to say no! Why
didn't you just say no, you
Hold On (For One More
Ah, the James Frey Rehab Method®. We have to wonder why
James doesn't act like Nancy Reagan and "Just Say No" before going
through all the rehab trouble if it really is just that easy.
The epilogue tells us that "James has never relapsed"
(Epilogue.16), even though everyone else at the center either relapsed, went to
jail, or died. Even Lilly
dies: she hangs herself on the day James gets out of jail. There's only one
sentence in the epilogue devoted to her, either because a) James doesn't really
love Lilly after all or b) this single throwaway line is meant to make Lilly's
fate seem that much worse.
Miles is the exception to the general downerishness of the
epilogue. We're told he lives and has never relapsed. James probably takes
credit for that—remember that scene in which James tells him to read the Tao and "tell
[Leonard] you want to hear about holding on" (3.2.440)?