James' latest book is called The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, and he says it is something he has been thinking about writing for at least 15 years. The idea came to him while he was working in the stockroom at a retail store on Chicago's Michigan Avenue.
James says his manager once asked him what he would write if he could write any book in the world. "I said, 'I want to write the great book of life,'" James says. "He said, 'It's already been done. It's called the Bible.' ... I thought, 'Why not do it again?'"
The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is the story of the Second Coming of Christ in today's modern world—but in James' book, Christ is a bisexual former alcoholic who lives in the Bronx and impregnates a stripper.
Writing a story like this may set off its own controversy, but James says it is not his intention to offend people. "I'm trying to change people's lives," he says. "That book wasn't written for the sake of controversy. I think it's easy to be controversial if you want to. I think it's easy to offend people if you want to."
"But you expect to push some buttons," Oprah says. "You can't even put a title with the word 'Bible' in it without causing some people to be already automatically pissed off at you."
"Sure," James says. "But I think that's the role of art. And the role of literature—or it should be—is to challenge people and to push them into places where they don't necessarily want to go. ... I want to make things that force people to confront themselves and to confront how they feel and to confront how they think and to confront what they believe. And if you're trying to do that, it's not always going to [get] a positive reaction."