Book Review: Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning
by James Frey

I always like to drop the bottom line in my book reviews. The bottom line for Bright Shiny Morning is that it was fantastic. This book is EXACTLY what I was looking for. It looks long, but reads fast. It's in a city I'm not privy to (Los Angeles), but I'm completely fascinated with this great American city. I loved the characters. I loved the pace. This book had the whole package.

First off, let me begin by saying that I was not expecting anything amazing, because I didn't like James Frey. I had two reasons. As a writer, I am suspicious of other writers that have been caught with their writing pants down. James Frey was one of those writers. He embellished parts of his book Million Little Pieces and lied to The Oprah about it. Normally upsetting The Oprah is career murder, but Frey bounced back.

I had the chance to hear a podcast interview with Frey. He was totally unapologetic, kind of whiny and frankly, the interview did not boost my optimism about the book. Then I heard an excerpt from Bright Shiny Morning and decided that the book would stay on the "To Read" list. It was well worth it. Bright Shiny Morning was Frey's first full fiction novel. He should have started with fiction, because he's got amazing talent and is a natural at storytelling.

The other reason that I wasn't entirely thrilled about the book was that I'm not too into L.A. It is a place that seems superficial, dirty, crowded and nowhere near the cultural center that New York City is. Bright Shiny Morning was going to be the last city-based book I was going to read for a little while. I had read about Chicago - Boss, Jungle, Devil in the White City - and I just finished a few about NYC - New Yorkers, Lush Life, Motherless Brooklyn. The Chicago books were all amazing, but historical in nature, so I didn't get a contemporary picture of the city. The New York books were okay, with the exception of Motherless Brooklyn, which was very entertaining, but I did not feel the city. I enjoyed the plot, the characters, the dialogue, but I did not feel the city.

My opinion on L.A. changed after reading this book. Frey really plops you right in the middle of things. He introduces you to the poor, the rich, the unknown, the famous, the gay, the straight. It is such a beautifully crafted cast of characters that it teaches you about the inner workings of L.A. I learned about the city's freeways, it's gangs, it's ethnic makeup, it's art community, it's flawless weather, it's plague of natural disasters. I'm not hopping on the next train west, but I am certainly much more intrigued with the city and it's living, breathing society.

There were two things about the book that I thought would piss me off, but neither did. First, I hate it when there's dialogue and no quotation marks! Frey did a great job with the dialogue. It was very different and very well done. Second, he used NO indents, which took a second of getting used to and then was not a problem. I loved how quickly each story moved. Frey manages to keep you on edge, but then progresses the storyline quickly. No build up, no BS, just life moving at the speed of life.

Loved this book.

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