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3.8 out of 5 stars
Bright Shiny Morning
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2009
I really wanted to find fault with this book, given Frey's history, but I was moved shaken, stunned and even goddman educated by this incredible magnum opus. what moves me so much is the spartan story telling technique, the way it lays peoples lives out in broad simple strokes, un-decorated with similies metaphors and poetic language. There are no nature metaphors here, there is no God and no transcendence, there are just people in their multitudes, with their mini-story lives, and that is a thing of beauty to behold.
Bright shiny morning is a powerful and moving picture of a very messed up city. every character seems real and alive and we feel for them all, whether they are abusers or abused, victims or conquerors. life goes on and lives through these pages.
My only grievance is that one of the narrative strands seems to end short but then I just wanted this book to go on and on and on.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2012
I really enjoyed this book - I know the authour is controversial in the US for his other work, A Million Little Pieces and the whole Oprah Winfrey business but I didn't let that deter me from judging this book on its own merit and I thoroughly enjoyed it.I liked the lists of facts about LA, although not so much the fictional lists such as daily log of guns/ rifles sold. The story features four main plots - a young couple escaping a horrible family life in a small town US city, a famous Hollywood actor living in the closet with a cover up wife (a lesbian) and children, a young insecure, intelligent Mexican woman scraping a living cleaning rich peoples houses and a homeless alcoholic, aswell as little snippets of numerous characters which were given a brief description of but no actual storyline, which I felt could have maybe been developed a little more? Overall, I enjoyed the story of the young couple the most as I felt the characters were the ones I could relate to and would like a sequel to find out what happens to them next? Overall, excellent read and one I would recommend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 February 2009
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a riot of a book, with a fast-paced, frantic feel created by using a `stream of consciousness' narrative style in the present tense. (NB there is a distinct lack of punctuation, so if that bothers you, give this a miss). James Frey does an excellent job of trying to capture the character of a city through the style of writing. I loved the structure, in which more factual sections are interspersed with stories - some uplifting, most shocking - of those who come to LA seeking fame and fortune. A great holiday read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 February 2010
Like John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" which is a novel about the Salinas Valley, James Frey's written a novel about Los Angeles, and wouldn't you know it, it's amazing.

The novel doesn't have Chapter 1, 2, etc. but does have separate sections which follow 4 main plot threads - a gay movie star, a young teen couple who've runaway to start a new life in LA, the daughter of immigrants out to find acceptance in society, and a beach bum. The book is also interspersed with sections devoted to facts about LA while separate pages divide these sections with each page containing a piece of history of LA from it's founding to present day. The main character - Los Angeles, the city itself - has separate sections about it's highways, it's movie industry, it's ethnic sections like Chinatown etc, it's weather and geography, it's inhabitants.

The beach bum, Old Man Joe, showed the life of a homeless person and yet was by far the most attractive (sort of). Joe is a great character, a man who lives in a toilet, drinking Chablis during the day, and sits on the beach at dawn awaiting a vision. He meets a young girl addicted to meth and beaten nearly to death and takes it upon himself to help her. Esperanza, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, provides the warm centre of the book. The beaten down underdog who succeeds in the end, her story was the sweetest and the one you cheered for once you reached the end. The young runaways, Dylan and Maddie, were the ones I thought were supposed to show the opposite to the many horrorific stories Frey throws out about people who come to LA, and it very nearly was until the ending. Frey really doesn't believe in happily ever after and keeps you guessing until the last page. The gay movie star, Amberton Parker (Parker = Cruise?), was the least interesting but was still readable.

I mention "East of Eden" because it's the great California novel. "Bright Shiny Morning", it's 21st century equivalent, is also a great California novel. It's ambitious and it's scope is large but Frey pulls it off admirably with maverick writing skills (difficult for some because of the unconventional use of grammar and punctuation - or absence thereof) and a strong instinct for storytelling. It's never boring and he never resorts to hackneyed reveals, coincidence, or melodramatic deus ex machinas.

There's too much in the book to talk about and too much I liked about it but suffice it to say that I wouldn't be surprised to see this in the Penguin Classics range in 100 years time. It's clever and has many layers to it but is also very entertaining and can be enjoyed by the casual reader looking for an excellent tale. I really think this is one of the best American novels of the last 10 years and if this is any indication then Frey is destined for quite a career. I look forward to the next novel. Bravo James Frey!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
From what I've read elsewhere James Frey has already cut an infamous figure in literary circles with his debut book 'A Million Little Pieces'. Purported - at first - to be a personal memoir of his past, it was later exposed by the media as pure fiction instead. Cue huge public outrage and a public dressing down & humiliation on the Oprah Winfrey show. To be honest, I'd not heard a single word about all of this before I began this novel and I'm glad I didn't: 'Bright Shiny Morning' is absolutely brilliant regardless of any reputation Frey has.

This novel isn't easy to describe. There are 4 main plots and these are mixed in with either brief snapshots of other minor denizens of LA or various bits of trivia about the city today (for example a list of the innumerate murderous gangs that roam its streets). Every break in the book is punctuated with events in the history of the city in the form of a single paragraph on a single page. Like the city itself, the novel is a sprawling mix of these strands but it never complicates itself by twisting them all together. The brief snippets of history and one off stories here & there allow the 4 main plots to breathe independently.

I thoroughly enjoyed this innovative book from cover to cover. Aside from the book's wonderful structure, the 4 main stories reflect the best known aspects of LA (& America today) very well: the rich & famous, the down & out, the migrant worker and kids in search of the American Dream. I often did wonder amidst the bulk of the novel if some of the shorter ones would be expanded later on or somehow clash with the bigger stories but, on reflection now, I'm glad they didn't. Such is the vastness of LA's varied populace, perhaps leaving out other individual voices meant some parts had to stand alone (beguilingly) in the way they did. The novel is really is a such a huge, delicious yet terrifying mix of ideas and one started to sense that the lead character wasn't someone from the 4 main stories, but Los Angeles itself.

This is my novel of the year so far. By a country mile. A modern masterpiece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2011
Please be warned,do not start this book unless you have time to lose yourself in this fast paced ,unforgettable experience of a read.This book delves into the lives of people like me and you,and the richest and the poorest people of L.A.It dips into the history of the beginnings of this city through to the present day whilst keeping you completely hooked on its humanity.You will feel better for the experience,but it will leave you searching out Freys other works immediately.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2010
I feared this may be a trashy novel in the Collins genre.....it is not. It is an intelligent piece of work, depicting a wide ranging cast of characters in an earthy and realistic portrayal of life in Los Angeles. Each chapter starts with a piece of information regarding the development of the area and, as we move into the story, learn quite a bit more about this metropolis and how it became what it is today.

I do have a criticism - Mr Frey is rather fond of lists. Lists of gun purchasers, lists of gangs, lists of freeways. I know these lists are used to make a point but it is a tactic used too often, hence loses impact with every new list.

I quite forgot I was reading a work of fiction - it is very believable and fully deserving of a five star rating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wanted to stop reading after page 50 - but something kept me going. There are no chapters and no inverted commas for dialogue - which I found a trifle irritating as well as the misused apostrophe - though this may have been because I was reading a proof copy. That said the book was still well worth reading. I feel I now have an understanding of a city I have never seen. Los Angeles - city of contradictions; of highs and lows; the rich and poor; good and evil.

The story follows Amberton Parker - mega star - with his marriage of convenience to hide his homosexuality; Dylan and Maddie - teenagers who run away from home to seek their fortune; Esperanza - Mexican by parentage but American by birth, who is ashamed of her body and its imperfections; Old Man Joe - dropout, homeless alcoholic who occupies a wash room at night and worries about a girl called Beatrice. In between their stories there are facts and figures about Los Angeles and items from its history, together with lists - of gangs, those wounded or killed in various wars, natural disasters which have happened to the city, fun facts and not so fun facts.

The book is written in semi documentary style - giving an almost bird's eye feeling to the narrative. There are other nameless and named characters whose stories are briefly described. What made me keep reading was that I found I cared what happened to the main characters - would Amberton keep his secret and get the man of his dreams? Would Esperanza overcome her insecurities so that she could make use of her excellent brain? Would Maddie and Dylan find happiness in the city of their dreams? Would Joe survive?

The scene when Amberton and Casey - his wife - attend a film permiere is masterly exposing the pretence and hypocricy of the red carpet. Joe in a church berating God for letting his friend die and the gangsters who killed him live. Esperanza slaving away as a cleaner for the obnoxious Mrs Campbell, only to have her make things dirty deliberately so that they must be done again from scratch. All these stick in the mind. Descriptions of nameless people who come from all over the world to live in relative harmony in LA - including '50,000 Ethiopians who eat every night'.

This book exposes the tawdry side of the city and the glamour, it deals with the highs and lows and nothing much in between - maybe that is how LA is - a city of extremes, smoke and mirrors. But there are people in it who care - about themselves - about each other. This is a book full of hope and of despair of dreams achieved and dreams turned to dross. Against my better judgement, almost, it captivated me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2009
I bought this book having read James Frey other books. I was prepared to be disappointed but wasn't. There are alot of different characters to try to get to grips with but it is so much like the shizophrenic attitidue of city life. There are so many contrasts, classes, races and shows how messed up life is. I love the comparison of actors who are paid millions to remember a few lines while the most philosophical character is living on Venice Beach and lives with his daily fix of wine.
I much prefer realistic books compared to the wishy washy stuff which is usually out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 23 August 2008
This is quite simply the best novel I have ever read, by a very long margin. It does everything that Pynchon tries to do but fails because he's too clever and abstract. Without ever using incomprehensible language James Frey breaks the ridiculous stranglehold of heroic plotting and focus on one individual to give us a novel with multiple points of interest that had me simply gasping for more and devastated when I came to the end.

Nothing I have ever read before achieved that.
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