Welcome to LA. City of contradictions. It is home to movie stars and down-and-outs. Palm-lined beaches and gridlock. Shopping sprees and gun sprees. Bright Shiny Morning takes a wild ride through the ultimate metropolis, where glittering excess rubs shoulders with seedy depravity. Frey's trademark filmic snapshots zoom in on the parallel lives of ...
Welcome to LA. City of contradictions. It is home to movie stars and down-and-outs. Palm-lined beaches and gridlock. Shopping sprees and gun sprees. Bright Shiny Morning takes a wild ride through the ultimate metropolis, where glittering excess rubs shoulders with seedy depravity. Frey's trademark filmic snapshots zoom in on the parallel lives of diverse characters, bringing their egos and ideals, hopes and despairs, anxieties and absurdities vividly to life. Some suffer, like the otherworldly wino who tries to save a spoilt teenage runaway. Others gain, like the canny talent agent who turns sexual harassment to blackmailing advantage. Some are loaded, or grounded, and have luck on their side. Others, like the countless actresses-turned-hookers, or schoolboys-turned-gangsters, are doomed.
While the book was initially confusing because of the sheer number of characters he introduces in the beginning, I soon realized that Frey's intention in this novel was not to follow a conventional plot line, but was centered around a place rather than a specific person. This novel was centered around the theme of life in LA in the twentieth century. He explores its growth, what attracts people to it and what kind of people end up there. It does not disappoint if you have read his other work and, like myself, greatly enjoy his literary style. The flexibility in his plot allows him to tell four main stories at one, one of a Mexican-American girl working as a maid with large thighs and low self-confidence. Another of a successful film star named Amberton and life in and out of the public eye. A third is of Old Man Joe, a homeless man, infatuated by Chablis who sleeps in a bathroom. Finally, a young couple who have been each other's comforts and support from a young age as they deal with their abusive parents, they drive west.
Frey allows the reader to understand the city, become familiar with everyone from the hopelessly crushed, addicted and mentally unstable to those who seem on the opposite end of the spectrum, those with success - and all of the benefits and disadvantages that come with popularity and wealth. He presents LA mainly as a city of extremes, hopes, dreams and escapes.
I greatly enjoyed this book and think it is a terrific read.
Publishers Weekly, 2008-04-14 When James Frey imploded as a memoirist in 2006, many said his A Million Little Pieces should have been--and perhaps initially was--presented as a novel, and that Frey--a sometimes screenwriter--was, both by nature and design, a fiction writer. Bright Shiny Morning is his first official book of fiction. If it's not quite a novel, less believable in its way than his "augmented" memoir ever was, there's no doubt it's a work of Frey's imagination. Ironic, isn't it? Set in contemporary Los Angeles, Bright Shiny Morning is not a cohesive narrative but a compilation of vignettes of several characters (if this were a memoir, we'd call them "composites") who have come to the city to fulfill their dreams. Some examples: Dylan and Maddie, madly-in-love Midwestern runaways who survive through the kindness of near strangers; Esperanza, a Mexican-American maid tortured by a body that could have been drawn by R. Crumb; a group of drunks and junkies who create a community behind the shacks on Venice Beach; Amberton Parker, a hugely famous married movie star who is secretly--you guessed it--gay. Interspersed with these rotating portraits are random historical and statistical factoids (which better have been fact-checked, even if there is a nudge-nudge, wink-wink disclaimer up front: "Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable") about L.A.: that, for example, "approximately 2.7 million people live without health insurance" and "there are more than 12,000 people who describe their job as bill collector in the City of Los Angeles." Frey's intention, it seems, is to create an onomatopoetic jumble, a cacophony of facts and fiction, stats and stories, that replicate the contradictory nature of the place they describe. I expect, given the sharpness of the knives that some critics have out for Frey, that many will say the book flat out doesn't work. First off, there's that voice, the hyperbolic, breathless, run-on, word-repeating voice that was much better suited to a memoir (or even a novel) in which the hero was a hyperbolic, breathless alcoholic and drug addict. And then there's the frat-boy swagger that angered some readers of AMLP turning up here, too, so faux-cynical as to be naive: the gang father's attaboy about his five-year-old son's desire to be a cold-blooded killer, and the prurient, adolescent take on sex. (And couldn't someone have stopped him from exclaiming "woohoo" after some of his "fun" and "not fun" factoids?) Yet the guy has something: an energy, a drive, a relentlessness, maybe, that can pull readers along, past the voice, past the stock characters, past the cliches. Bright Shiny Morning is a train wreck of a novel, but it's un-put-downable, a real page-turner--in what may come to be known as the Frey tradition. Sara Nelson is the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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