Joan's Reviews > Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James J. Frey
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's review
Mar 14, 2012

really liked it

Frey is a controversial writer, whose highly successful book, A Million Little Pieces, published as a true memoir of his drug addiction and treatment, was determined to be largely fiction. He and his publisher were taken to task by Oprah, live, on her show, for their deception. The man can write fiction, however, and write it well.
In Bright Shiny Morning, he hurls character after character at the reader, in a long and disjointed tale about Los Angeles and the dreamers who populate it. Although one reviewer referred to the book as “the bastard child of a short-story collection and an almanac” and the LA Times called it a “literary train wreck,” I disagree. With the power of his prose, which frequently lapses into unpunctuated stream of consciousness, Frey creates vivid characters whose lives are compelling.
The complaint I had about the last novel I read, A Gate at the Stairs, was that I never really warmed up to the main character, which resulted in my remaining unmoved by her story. With this novel, I warmed up to every character that was lovingly sketched by the author. The structure of the book takes the reader back and forth among the threads of the characters’ stories, weaving a larger tapestry themed around the contrasts and human tragedies of life in Los Angeles. I found myself drawn in to each sub plot and at the same time, eagerly hoping for a return to see what happened to the other characters. I can laugh at the scornful reference to the “almanac” and admit that I skimmed sections where Frey got carried away with his endless lists of factoids. But, and it seems appropriate to use this phrase, at the end of the day, Bright Shiny Morning works.

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