It sucks that I have to write a negative review about James Frey.
It especially sucks because I loved A Million Little Pieces & My Friend Leonard so much. Far and away, my favorite two books I've read in the past year have been those two. Despite all the controversy and all the mud that has been slung (is that even a word?) Frey's way - I still LOVED those two books. Nothing that I've read up to this point has gotten such a reaction out of me. That being said, enough about those two books, you can read my review here if you want. On to Bright Shiny Morning.
After dealing with all the controversy stemming from his "autobiographies" - Frey took his first stab at the world of storytelling - something that wasn't partially based on real life with 2008's Bright Shiny Morning. Frey always wanted to write about LA, he said that there really was never a proper treatment given to a place he called home for part of his adult life. Granted, we all hear about LA and its glitz and glamour on a daily basis through the entertainment industry but Frey wanted to show another side of Hollywood - a darker side.
Book Summary: Dozens of characters pass across the reader's sight lines - some never to be seen again - but James Frey lingers on a handful of LA's lost souls and captures the dramatic narrative of their lives: a bright, ambitious young Mexican-American woman who allows her future to be undone by a moment of searing humiliation; a supremely narcissistic action-movie star whose passion for the unattainable object of his affection nearly destroys him; a couple, both nineteen years old, who flee their suffocating hometown and struggle to survive on the fringes of the great city; and an aging Venice Beach alcoholic whose life is turned upside down when a meth-addled teenage girl shows up half-dead outside the restroom he calls home.
Along with those short stories - Frey decides to throw in some historical events in the development of the city as well as some fun and "not-so-fun" facts about Los Angeles. While I can certainly give Frey an "A for effort", the whole book feels messy and all over the place. I respect his attempt to revive his career after everything came tumbling down when Oprah tore him a new one on national television, however, I felt extremely let down in the end. Perhaps it's the fact that a number of the characters really weren't given proper time to develop - it's always a downside of a short story compilation - It's a hurdle to say the least.
That being said, the whole book isn't "awful" per say, there were some "bright" spots (pun completely intended). His short story about the two nineteen year olds was particularly great - the best one of the bunch. I felt so strongly for that story that it could have been a full novel itself. The fun facts were indeed, "fun", and I felt like I learned something in regards to the blurbs about the city's development.
In the end however, the bad simply outweighs the good. Given my general feeling about Bright Shiny Morning, I still remain positive about his next outing, Illumination. Illumination is a story about the resurrection of Jesus Christ as he's depicted as a homeless man on the streets of New York City - sounds interesting to say the least. I'm just happy that he wasn't discouraged after all the controversy and continued to write. The man is talented - there is no doubt - and I'm happy he stuck around.