Bright Shiny Morning: Nobody Walks in L.A.

Bright Shiny Morning 2I stand corrected from my earlier post about James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning–the amoral gunshop owner doesn’t learn a hard life-lesson.  In fact, he never appears in the book again. There are a lot of characters like this in Frey’s novel, which speaks to the disconnectedness of life in Los Angeles, and I’m now more certain than ever that is Frey’s overarching theme.

In most books the various characters and plots would come together at some point and, even if not everything was resolved, at least connections would be made.  Not so in Bright Shiny Morning, and not so in L.A.  Frey throws in a lot of information (only some of it true apparently–he seems incapable of leaving behind his proclivity for making things up) about the makeup of the sprawling California city, its ethnic groups, their neighbourhoods, and the divide between them.  L.A. is easily one of the most diverse cities in the world, but the many people it’s welcomed over its history continue to be divided within its city limits, by race, class and wealth.

Frey’s novel is almost a horror story–so many bad things happen relentlessly to so many people–and there’s very little hope at the end of the tale.  In keeping with his gritty outlook, everything seems dismal, but there is a little hope, sometimes cynical, sometimes misguided, but sometimes spiritual and romantic.  And isn’t it that faint glimmer of hope that keeps people coming to the City of Angels?

Rise and Shine Los Angeles!

Bright Shiny Morning 2I’ve read more of Bright Shiny Morning and it seems like the characters are stereotypes and cliches–but that’s actually a good thing. It turns out that the stories, about a young chicana who has to work for an elderly and rich white woman to make a living, about a couple of kids struggling to survive in the big hard city but who at least have each other, about a high-profile Hollywood star whose biggest role is the one he plays every day to convince the world that he’s straight, aren’t really about those characters, but just part of the character of the city of Los Angeles, the real subject of the novel. It’s surely one of the most complicated cities in America, if not the world, and Frey really brings it to life through the stories of its denizens.

The Great Los Angeleno Novel?

Bright Shiny MorningJames Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning is set in Los Angeles, and intersperses quick historical facts about the city in between introducing his many and varied characters, from a young couple who have fled abuse and boredom in the MidWest in search of their dreams in the City of Angels to the owner of a gun shop who hates everyone equally and doesn’t care who his guns kill (you just know he’s going to come up hard against a life lesson later in the book). The characters are interesting and show promise. Frey’s style takes a little getting used to, with its lack of commas and slight stream-of-consciousness flow.

Frey is of course (in)famous for the scandal around his “memoir”-later-revealed-to-be-fabrication A Million Little Pieces, but hopefully the incident won’t hang over his career forever.