Anne's Reviews > Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey
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's review
Jun 22, 2008

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Read in November, 2008

After all the controversy over Frey's "memoir," A Million Little Pieces, I just couldn't resist picking up his recent novel to see him take a stab at writing fiction that is actually represented as fiction. Bright Shiny Morning is both a history of Los Angeles, and a portrait of the various people attempting to live out their dreams in the City Angels. There is the American-born and raised daughter of Mexican immigrants, trying to make her parents' sacrifices worth their while. There is the world-famous celebrity couple living together in their mansion for the cameras, but privately living separate homosexual existences courtesy of non-disclosure agreements. There is the 19-year old couple from the midwest who have come west with nothing but hopes for a better future. Along the way, there is the usual sex, drugs, violence and destruction of dreams that one would expect only in Los Angeles. As a concept, I liked this novel - Frey divides up his short chapters on the various characters with factual statements about the creation and growth of Los Angeles - beginning in the 18th century and continuing up to the current day. The idea that all of Los Angeles and everything it has come to represent began as nothing more than a pueblo is an incredible thought. Frey's writing, however, is all over the place. Not only does he jump from character to character, but he avoids punctuation with no rhyme or reason, making dialogue and thoughts often difficult to follow (giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps this is supposed to represent the haziness and confusion of LA itself?). In many ways, the characters are quite real - all trying in their own ways, but with a huge dose of tragedy. In my hopes of a coincidental Dickensian end, I anticipated that some of the character paths would cross, but they never did. Of course, this does make the novel a bit more realistic - simply a portrayal of all these different types of lives living in parallel existence in such a seemingly small area. But, it doesn't make for an interesting cohesive story. Frey has great character ideas - he just needs to reach a bit more for a plot. I appreciated the creative aspects of this novel, though often found myself thinking that Frey was trying to hard to be different, shocking, or original. Again, kind of like LA in general.
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Doug Bradshaw Good review. Similar to how I felt. Some of it was fun, but all and all, always too something.

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