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?”