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City Of Blinding Lights,
This review is from: Bright Shiny Morning (Hardcover)
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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.