Mirror, mirror on the Wall… by Nina Scholz

by capreviewroom

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey is a fictional novel based in Los Angeles. The novel follows four main stories; Amberton- a successful movie star; Old Man Joe- a homeless drunk; Maddie and Dylan- a couple that ran away from their abusive childhood in Ohio; and Esperanza- an American born of Mexican heritage. These stories, however, never intertwine; which makes the book a little choppy to read.

Frey attempts to paint a picture of the reality of life in Los Angels by using stereotypes, fictional and historical facts to emphasize his plot. It is an extremely controversial look at an entity (LA) that is usually only depicted as ‘bright and shiny’ and glorious. The city ‘where dreams are made of’ is shown a ‘mirror of truth’ in the form of Freys novel.

Bright Shiny Morning conveys an image of LA as an evil power that takes hold of people with dreams and does not let them go, “It calls to them and they believe it and they cannot say no to it, they cannot say no. It calls to them. It calls. Calls” (p510). Through the characters we are introduced to in Freys novel we suffer with them through their experiences and he keeps us wondering what, where and when the next turning point in a story will emerge. At every moment we feel the presence of the city and the impact it has on the characters.  The differences between the city limits he has chosen, East LA vs. Hollywood, are just as extreme and stereotypical as his choice and variety in characters, a homeless man vs. a successful actor.

Bright Shiny Morning is the anti-travel-guide to Los Angeles, the crusher of dreams and the voice of utter rationality. Even though fictional and very much based on stereotypes and clichés, Freys characters make us believe that he is telling us the truth about LA.- and most certainly that we should not let it call us or suck us into the downward spiral that is life in LA. It almost reads like a not-so-funny-or-sarcastic version of a Bill Bryson novel, as it feeds off of the negative stereotypes of LA and forces us to take a realistic, yet fictional, look at the deep dark secrets of a city and the characters we encounter.

I feel like this book cannot be described as a waste of time- you can either enjoy it or enjoy ripping it apart. Either way, James Frey provides the reader with enough information (or ammunition) on the city, and the storylines to keep you loving or hating for a very long time.

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