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



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