April 18, 2012

A Not-So Bright Shiny LA

by capreviewroom

The fictional novel, Bright Shiny Morning written by author James Frey, most notable for his earlier controversial book a million little pieces, features a snapshot of his rendition of Los Angeles. The snapshot, driven by four individual stories, showcases the lives of somewhat broken individuals from different walks of life. From a “public heterosexual, private homosexual” Hollywood movie star to a homeless person plagued with alcoholism, the various characters’ troubled lives within the sunny city of Los Angeles were portrayed.

Each story of the book follows a character or multiple characters, a publicly closeted homosexual movie star named Amberton Parker, an alcoholic homeless person addicted to Chablis known only as Old Man Joe, a the couple whom escaped from dead-end lives Dylan and Maddie, and finally a Mexican family who crossed the border from Mexico to find a better life, with the most prominent character being the daughter of the family, Esperanza who is ashamed of her large thighs and works as a maid for the wealthy of Los Angeles.

Bright Shiny Morning does not follow a conventional layout for books; it has four independent stories split up into small sections and is fed to the reader in a mixed order while still following each story chronologically. The beginning of each section starts with a chapter in the history of the founding and continuation of the city of Los Angeles, and in between varying sections of the stories, small excerpts of facts and information about the city are to be found.

Frey’s portrayal of the city’s negative light seems to assault a place heralded as a wonderful place to live. He does a wonderful job providing readers with a different view of the city, and in some ways a more realistic view. Frey grant’s the reader a view behind the glamorous curtain of perceived lifestyles in Los Angeles, albeit in a fictional novel featuring fictional characters, there is some hints of realism resonating from the characters. Frey has written a successful novel and has in my opinion accomplished his goal in writing an invoking representation of Los Angeles.

By Anthony Yiu

April 16, 2012

The Four Different Colors of Light

by capreviewroom

The Four Different Colors of Light


“The American Dream” is questioned again in James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning, a collection of vignettes of four characters who have come to live in the retrospective city of Los Angeles to fulfill their dreams.  The four characters the novel centers on are Amberton Parker, a famous Hollywood actor who holds a deep secret about her identity, Esperanza, a Mexican-American servant like maid, Maddie and Dylan a young couple who try to escape their broken family, and Old Man Joe, a drunk bum who has one simple desire.  Although their backgrounds, identity and problems differ, they all share one desire: to see the “light” of Los Angeles.  Whether the “light” the characters seek is the fake, neon lights of Hollywood signs, the sunlight of the romantic sunset beneath the shores of Venice beach, a metaphoric glow of their near future, or the shiny, morning light of waking up to a new day, all four characters struggle and work towards achieving their dreams.

The style of the novel is authentic and provides an interesting fusion of fiction and non-fiction.  Though this novel may show some complications through its unstructured fragments of hyperbolic, run-on memoirs, James Frey successfully gathers the chaotic diversions to one central theme of “The American Dream”.  As Fitzgerald uses symbols of the color green to show the greed and materialistic dreams of the Americans in The Great Gatsby, Frey also uses the symbol of light to represent the many metaphorical meanings of “dreams” that link to the biographies of the characters in his novel.  Moreover, many of Frey’s subtle devices such as the use of symbols, motifs, and original writing styles, such as the fast-paced, choppy, word-repeating voice to suit the character of the breathless alcoholic, come together with his blatant usage of random facts of Los Angeles to provide a smoothness as well as creating a connection between the fictional character memoirs with non-fictional surroundings and details of problems that people may relate to. The use of facts and fiction, through fictional memories and stats of Los Angeles, creates a discordance that may symbolically tie to the cacophonic lives the characters suffer with.  Moreover, as the style, the character memoirs are also jumbled, however they maintain an overall smoothness in the end.  Some characters suffer as others gain.  Although the outcome that each face are different, they all grasp their dreams and all drive through their lives “towards the glow…thousands of miles away” (116).  

James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning is a well-written novel full of both smooth and blatant contrast of facts and fiction, status, and memoirs and real-life problems.  The literal double-sidedness Frey provides creates a sensational understanding for readers.  Therefore, I strongly recommend this novel for both people who are searching for an enjoyable, leisure read and for readers seeking for high literal standards that they can intellectually relate to.  Through this novel, the double meaning of “The American Dream” can be grasped and it reveals the question in the end that still echoes in my head: “what light do you shed?” 

Rina Moon

April 15, 2012

The Darkside of the City of Dreams

by capreviewroom

By: Jane Agyeman

For James Frey’s second venture into the literary world he decide to create a fiction novel called “Bright Shiny Morning”, a book that uses stories of the lives of L.A natives and immigrant to unearth the dark and distorted underbelly of the city of dreams. The novel is mainly focused on the lives of people in four main plot lines, old man Joe an alcoholic homeless man, Maddy and Dylan a couple looking of an escape their abusive suburban surroundings, Amberton a famous celebrity and a closet homosexual, and Esperanza  a Hispanic first generation American with major feelings on distain toward her large thighs. This book is definitely not without it, but Frey use of social stereotypes and the ideal of the American dream to shiny a light on the darkest parts of the coast of eternal sunshine is clever and eye opening. This novel is not one for the faint of heart as Frey’s signature vivid description and impeccable detail paints haunting images of the dankest parts of L.A., digging up images of darkness and disconsolation. It lacked the cookie-cutter, textbook fluff that often limits book, often leaving them lacking realism. Though this book has great imagery, its structure and content leaves something to be desired. The book is definitely biased in it opinion of Los Angeles, and this blatant use of one-sidedness is in many ways was off-putting to me as a reader. Frey’s attempt to seamlessly blend the lives of characters of a ranging spectrum in to one story is choppy at best, creating a rift between each plot line that makes the book seem unfinished and poorly edit. Overall this book has some good qualities and though it is not on my must read list, it something that should not be discarded completely.

Rating: 6.25/10

April 13, 2012

Dead girls and Suffering Readers

by capreviewroom

     From the mid 1990’s to early 2000’s, Vancouver residents were filled with anxiety and worry due to a serial killer who was lurking the streets, particularly around the downtown eastside. He was interested in the prostitutes of the city, “bodies for hire, disposable girls”(99). During the events leading up to the arrest of the killer, Nancy Lee wrote Dead Girls, a collection of 8 short stories focused on women and their struggles at this time, related to the murders or not. The stories often include a wide array of varied subject matter including detail of intimate relationships, emotional struggles, love, and loss; to name a few. Lee plays with different points of view between stories, and even writes “Sally, In Parts” in segments about one woman’s body parts.  The great variety involved in the collection provides a successful way to keep the reader interested throughout the book. Lee also includes a variety of situations which her characters inhabit. From stories involving high school students, to middle aged women, there is a comprehensive set of scenarios included in the collection.

      From a distance, the contents seem to indicate a successful piece of writing; unfortunately, however, all is not well with the collection. Many stories include painfully detailed description. While some description was powerful in its brutal honesty, some is delivered in an almost tasteless fashion. Perhaps it was just me who found it uncomfortable to read “Valentines”, which talks about a 13 year old girl’s sexual encounters. Another problem with Lee’s work is an overall lack of coherence between the stories. The title of the book refers to the dead women of the serial killer, but multiple stories barely graze the topic of these murders, and this is the only link between every short story. Lastly, through the majority of the book, I paused to wonder what the point of the segment I was reading is. By the end of the book, I had still not found an answer.

      While Dead Girls is by no means a poorly written collection, or even lacking in relevant issues, it is not on my recommended list. For the average reader, it is too tough of a text to swallow. If you are interested in social issues, especially ones involved in women’s daily life, this may be worth a read, but don’t be surprised if it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. 


Harrison Lefeaux

April 12, 2012

A Great Glimpse Of L.A. (Not Really)

by capreviewroom

“Bright Shiny Morning” by James Frey, who has written the infamous “A Million Little Pieces” is coming back again with a story of many typical characters, fun facts about L.A. that are not fun to read at all and an exaggerated view of society in Los Angeles. I have to admit that the novel is a good read for leisure, but Frey certainly fails to convey the image of Los Angeles.
The characters are all interesting and enjoyable to know about, but they have very fictional feeling that pulls us out of the realism of “Bright Shiny Morning”. There is Old Man Joe, a run down bum who manages to enjoy life and live happy as long as he can gaze at the beach and drink his “Chablis”. Amberton Parker, a world famous actor in Hollywood with a deep secret that he lets rarely anyone know about. Esperanza, a Mexican-American girl who works as a maid for a cruel and wretched homeowner named Mrs. Campbell and falls in love with her son, Doug. Then there’s Dylan and Maddie, a run away couple from Ohio trying to make a life in L.A. and eventually taking a big risk to make their dreams come true. In contrast to Nancy Lee’s characters in, “Dead Girls”, she is able to pull in the reader to want to know about the missing girls in Vancouver, while Frey does not manage to tie much that is L.A. with the characters in his novel. Frey is unable to immerse us in the reality of life in Los Angeles and simply just writes a novel purely for leisure and enjoyment.
Frey has unsuccessfully, tried to give us a view of the history of Los Angeles in order to let us produce an image based on his writing. The little fun facts fail to provide interest about the real Los Angeles and get in the way of the enjoyment of the novel. I actually skipped an excerpt in the novel where Frey describes the highways and freeways of Los Angeles because it was random and just plain boring to read. When talking about Los Angeles, one would expect something much more interesting but this, “When discussing roads, the citizens of Los Angeles almost always use the numbers, immediately preceded by the word the.”(143). I did not care whether this is true or not, but Frey’s attempt at throwing some realism into his novel fails to impress me.
In its entirety, “Bright Shiny Morning” is a novel that has struck as a good book to read for pleasure, but it is far from a strong work that tries to drill an image of Los Angeles to your brain. Frey’s novel in my opinion, would still be interesting if it was set in a made up city without the one or two sentence facts and would have been a great read.

-Michael Nguyen

April 12, 2012

A Bright and Shiny Past-time

by capreviewroom

James Frey takes our generation of storytelling to a whole other experimental level. Written as a novel, yet can also be perceived as a compilation of short stories, Bright and Shiny Morning follows the lives of a few peculiar characters living in the retrospective city of Los Angeles. Although we may assume that these characters, each facing different life issues, tie together in the end to make a critical point they simply do not. Other than the fact that they live in the same city there is no correlation-no solid reason for this novel to be a novel.

Written in a unique script-like third-person omniscient point of view the book itself does have its own interesting traits. Each segment begins with a quirky historical fact about Los Angeles which oddly takes up its own special page. In fact, from page 322 to page 323, right smack in the middle of the novel we are treated to a list of fun facts on Los Angeles. Why is it there? This answer, perhaps, may be justified only by Frey himself. It could possibly be the weak glue piecing together Frey’s portrait of Los Angeles-something the reader may not completely comprehend.

Through the book, we tune into the secret life of Amberton Parker; a famous celebrity star by day and a closet homosexual by night. Somewhere later between the pages we meet Esperanza, a child whose birth alone should be plastered on the front pages of newspapers reminding and questioning ourselves of what really can be highlighted “The American Dream”. Dylan and Maddie’s exaggerated tale of surviving on each other’s love makes up the weaker portion of Frey’s novel. The typical romantic love story can only be recycled a certain number of times and this segment is too unrealistic and dissociative to pass off. Old Man Joe, a character living within the later grim parts of cities, is surprisingly quite the polar opposite of dull.

We’re gonna get weapons, bottles or pieces of lumber, and we’ll steal some garbage can tops to use as shields…” (332)

With the addition of some gritty slapstick humour in his nonsensical tale of surviving life in the dumps this novel does bring about some form of amusement. It is always entertaining to read how a homeless man gathers an army and uses garbage can lids to triumph in love.

Though some parts are poorly executed Bright and Shiny Morning is generally a worthwhile read. The peculiar narration style of Los Angeles and the characters oddly adds to its memorableness. Less of a novel, more along the lines of short story, this book has its special lustrous moments.

Anna Chen


April 12, 2012

Bright Shiny Morning, Lost Broken Souls

by capreviewroom

Amberton Parker, famous movie star, gorgeous wife, three healthy children. “Public heterosexual. Private homosexual.” (16) Dylan and Maddie, childhood friends to star crossed teenage lovers, grew up in “small American town full of alcohol, abuse and religion” (2) desperate for a better life, desperate for an escape. Old Man Joe, an aging alcoholic living out of a bathroom in Venice Beach. Every day he waits, “waits for an answer.” (5) Esperanza, an American born Mexican who was born 50 feet across the US-Mexican border. Stricken with the burden of huge thighs, settles for the job of a maid. The four stories of five lost souls in the city of Los Angeles is what makes up the novel Bright Shiny Morning by nationally recognized author James Frey. This is Frey’s third novel to his previous novels, the controversial A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard, and to say the least it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Frey writes in such a manner that it is impossible to tear away from the storyline. This particular novel is written in broken fragmented sentences such as “Day after day I see them. I walk and I hear them. I walk and I feel them. I walk in the Land of Angels, I walk in the Land of Dreams.”(506) The sentence and paragraph structure of this novel is a strikingly accurate representation of the story itself, which is a collection of lost souls, broken, fragmented, and their lives in Los Angeles.  The second surprising element of Frey’s novel is the paragraphs of Los Angeles history cut throughout the novel. At the end of every chapter or segment of the novel Frey strategically placed, in chronological order, facts regarding the creation of the infrastructure of the city, beginning in 1781. The recipe of interesting facts and the broken lives of five individuals create the perfect meal. A powerful third novel from Frey, it leaves the reader tastefully satisfied with knowledge of the hardships of the city of Los Angeles, yet still a hunger for more.

By Melissa 

April 12, 2012

A Foggy Day

by capreviewroom

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey is novel which focuses on four unrelated stories based in and around Los Angeles. With segue’s that delve into other minor characters, and facts about the city of Los Angeles itself.

The four main storylines follow a variety of characters; Amberton Parker, a famous and wealthy celebrity who lives his life hiding a “dangerous” secret; a young couple, Dylan and Maddie, who run away from home and try to find a better life in L.A.; a Mexican-American named Esperanza working as a maid to raise funds for university; and a homeless man named Old Man Joe who lives and lays on Venice Beach searching for answers.

These four storylines, while somewhat cliched, are what make this novel bearable, and possibly enjoyable to read. Yet interspersed between the alternating storylines are tangents to “historical” facts about the city of Los Angeles, and while the facts may be interesting, Frey presents them in such a dry and forced way that these tangents take away from the enjoyment of the main storyline, forcing me to either skip the tangents, or attempt to bear though such unrelated information.

The segue from the main storylines feel as though Frey simply wrote what every popped into his head and interested him while trying to flesh out the plot of his stories. Perhaps that was what he intended, or perhaps they are there to add unneeded background information for the stories.

I would recommend Bright Shiny Morning if you want an easy to read story, that allows for reading in short five to ten minute periods. But if you’re looking for something with a unique and engaging plot, you might want to pass on Frey’s third foray into published literature.

— Justin Chapdelaine

April 12, 2012

Seeing Los Angeles Through Diverse Sets of Eyes – Danie Hasselback

by capreviewroom

James Frey uses compelling and contrasting characters in his book Bright Shiny Morning, allowing readers to really see the different conceptions people have of this populous city.  This book is fictional, but Frey adds in pages of facts throughout explaining highways, or the military of L.A.  He does this so the reader can have a better understanding and really grip all the aspects of this ample city.   Every few pages he also adds facts on how this city grew from a cipher to almost four million people.  Frey leads us through the journey of five people, some searching for better lives, while some just want to find themselves and reach social equilibrium.  We see the growth of these characters while simultaneously seeing the growth of Los Angeles.  He emphasizes aspects of this muddled city all throughout the book.  Frey writes four mini stories and alternates them throughout the book, with the characters Maddie and Dylan, Old Man Joe, Esperanza, and Amberton.  He keeps these characters very engrossing while still realistic.  

Frey reaches into the lives of diversified people, from the mistreated immigrant, to the opulent, to the beggared, to the runaway teenagers.  Esperanza is an insecure Mexican Immigrant who is living the cliche life many Americans give.  Amberton is a wealthy man who lives a dual life, one public, one private, while hiding his true sexuality.  Old man Joe is one of the many homeless people occupying the streets of Los Angeles, and his one true love and key to happiness is Chablus.  Lastly, you have Maddie and Dylan, the adolescent infatuated couple who ran away from their abusive parents to Los Angeles in hopes for betterment.  

This book can confuse readers and is something that you may have to read twice, and really analyze since there are casual characters and random facts spread throughout the book.  With Frey’s controversial past with his book A Million Little Pieces, many readers have a biased and stubborn view on this writer.  I urge readers to look past this unfortunate situation and read this well written and intriguing book about the chaotic but alluring city of Los Angeles.  

Word Count: 350

April 12, 2012

Real lives in the Los Angeles – Tomohiro Ibi

by capreviewroom

James Frey writes Bright Shiny Morning, a fictional novel, in 2008. Frey writes about Los Angeles, and the people who live there. This book spotlights four main characters: Dylan and Maddie, a couple who leave Ohio to escape from their parents’ abusing to pursue better life in LA; Old man Joe, a homeless man who lives in bathroom behind the Mexican restaurant. Amberton Parker, a successful movie star with everything – money, prestige, beautiful wife and children – but conceals the fact that he is an homosexual; Esperanza, an intelligent Mexican American girl, obsessed with her huge thigh, works at a wealthy old woman’s house as a maid.

Readers understand the life style in LA as well as the atmosphere of the whole city throughout the book. As the title of this book indicates, Frey describes Los Angeles as the city filled with sunshine where gathers people are ambitious of the American Dream. Although each character has a variety of age, gender, and circumstance, they pursue their own dreams. On the other hand, Frey also describes the dark aspects of the city. Each character’s conflicts and struggles reflect the social issues that exist in LA. For instance, Dylan and Maddie get involved with mafia warfare. They are also described too immature to Joe confront with poverty, alcoholism, and homelessness. Amberton conceals his homosexuality and is afraid of revealing it to the public. Racism toward Esperanza also emphasizes the struggle among immigrant people.

Style of this novel is so unique that it attracts the readers from the beginning to the end of the book. Frey deliberately use run-on sentences with enormous dialogues with explicit language, and random historic records. Even though this book appears to be thick, reader can flip through the pages faster than they think.  In addition, the story progresses further by switching around each character, which may lead readers to confusion and make them difficult to comprehend the storyline; however, it implies Frey’s purpose. He tries to express to the readers the reality of LA in Bright Shiny Morning through each character’s perspective; life style, language spoken, and the atmosphere of the city.

I enjoyed this book. Bright Shiny Morning precisely describes the life in LA and people’s life there. Frey emphasizes the dark side of LA to make the readers realize the harshness of achieving the dream and their struggles during its processes. Frey’s writing style entertains readers and makes readers think that the volume of the book is lighter than it appears to be.