“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.