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Bright Shiny Morning Hardcover – May 13, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 253 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SignatureReviewed by Sara NelsonWhen James Frey imploded as a memoirist in 2006, many said his A Million Little Pieces should have been—and perhaps initially was—presented as a novel, and that Frey—a sometimes screenwriter—was, both by nature and design, a fiction writer. Bright Shiny Morning is his first official book of fiction. If it's not quite a novel, less believable in its way than his augmented memoir ever was, there's no doubt it's a work of Frey's imagination. Ironic, isn't it?Set in contemporary Los Angeles, Bright Shiny Morning is not a cohesive narrative but a compilation of vignettes of several characters (if this were a memoir, we'd call them composites) who have come to the city to fulfill their dreams. Some examples: Dylan and Maddie, madly-in-love Midwestern runaways who survive through the kindness of near strangers; Esperanza, a Mexican-American maid tortured by a body that could have been drawn by R. Crumb; a group of drunks and junkies who create a community behind the shacks on Venice Beach; Amberton Parker, a hugely famous married movie star who is secretly—you guessed it—gay. Interspersed with these rotating portraits are random historical and statistical factoids (which better have been fact-checked, even if there is a nudge-nudge, wink-wink disclaimer up front: Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable) about L.A.: that, for example, approximately 2.7 million people live without health insurance and there are more than 12,000 people who describe their job as bill collector in the City of Los Angeles. Frey's intention, it seems, is to create an onomatopoetic jumble, a cacophony of facts and fiction, stats and stories, that replicate the contradictory nature of the place they describe. I expect, given the sharpness of the knives that some critics have out for Frey, that many will say the book flat out doesn't work. First off, there's that voice, the hyperbolic, breathless, run-on, word-repeating voice that was much better suited to a memoir (or even a novel) in which the hero was a hyperbolic, breathless alcoholic and drug addict. And then there's the frat-boy swagger that angered some readers of AMLP turning up here, too, so faux-cynical as to be naïve: the gang father's attaboy about his five-year-old son's desire to be a cold-blooded killer, and the prurient, adolescent take on sex. (And couldn't someone have stopped him from exclaiming woohoo after some of his fun and not fun factoids?) Yet the guy has something: an energy, a drive, a relentlessness, maybe, that can pull readers along, past the voice, past the stock characters, past the clichés. Bright Shiny Morning is a train wreck of a novel, but it's un-put-downable, a real page-turner—in what may come to be known as the Frey tradition. Sara Nelson is the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Two years after Frey’s memoir "A Million Little Pieces" was outed as part fiction, the publicly chastised writer resurfaces with a novel much of which purports to be fact. Set in a Los Angeles populated by miniature-golf moguls, ex-beauty queens, gun-shop owners, debauched child actors, meth dealers, and yoginis in thongs, this gargantuan book is seeded, Melville-like, with chapters cataloguing the city’s snarled highways and quirky innovations (e.g., the world’s first video graveyard). The characters are relentlessly stock: two lovesick kids from the heartland ("nowhere anywhere everywhere"); a bulimic, closeted movie star with a "MEGAWATT!!!!!" smile; a Mexican-American maid with an abusive employer. Frey strives for incantatory but winds up with banal; when it comes to emotion, the best he can muster is "It’s deep, it’s true, and it’s real real real."
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061573132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061573132
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Clarence Oliver VINE VOICE on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was the first to get the book from my local Barnes and Nobles and I know this because they told me this--I read a lot. I read Austen and Bronte. I read Hemingway and Faulkner. I read Mailer and Vidal. I read I read I read. You'll have to trust me when I say that I consider myself a literate person, a published writer, and a harsh and unbearable critic--of self and others--and I haven't read all of Bright Shiny Morning yet. I have read four hundred and ten pages of it. With the negative reviews that are to follow, I figured a partial review on my favorite place to buy books online would be appropriate to thin out what will surely be many an unjust review. Let's put aside that he's an embellisher in his memoirs (I could care less). Let's focus solely on the novel at hand. Let's start with the negatives.

Two Teens runaway from home to start a life together. (Cliche)
A blockbuster actor married to a beautiful woman is really gay. (Cliche)
A spanish nanny with a deformity who starts a relationships with the son of a client. (Cliche)
A homeless man who befriends a runaway. (Most assuredly cliche)
The writing is shoddily punctuated, annoyingly incomplete, and choppy. (You look and have to make sure you read it right).
The language is rough. (Constant swearing, difficult to read material)
The vignette excursions are sometimes annoying, sometimes interesting, sometimes boring, sometimes a miss, and sometimes a hit. (Some worked in the book, other's probably could've been left out).

Now I'll tell you why none of these negatives matter.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This book was bought primarily because I felt bad about the crucifiction he faced with dignity on Oprah and I wanted to be supportive. I had not read any of his other works and was amazed at the raw soaring talent displayed within this book. I was enthralled from the first word to the last. Frey is an amazing writer and I will now buy everything he writes with eager anticipation..much like Poe, the reader knows without a doubt, that the writer has lived his story in some fashion, to make it so true to those who have and have not been there. In that equality lies the miracle. Mary W. Black, Flagstaff, AZ
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
500 pages in two sittings. I opened the book and was immersed in an utterly amazing character study, not of a person, but of a place, a city, a metropolis so vast and varied and unforgiving. A place of dreams and disasters. Of beauty an inch deep and a mile wide. Frey's depiction of L.A. is a masterpiece. But is it really a work of fiction?
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I want to preface this review by saying that I am one of those people who couldn't care less if James Frey or his publishers (or whomever) called his first book, A Million Little Pieces, a memoir. The fact that is was a great piece of literature -- terrific story, great writing, and a truly compelling read -- is all that should matter at the end of the day. His next book, My Friend Leonard, was at least as good, if not better, and more than proved that James Frey was not a one-hit-wonder.

With that being said, I now want to gush about Bright Shiny Morning. No, it's not the least bit uplifting and it covers dark topics that many of us wish we could ignore. BUT...but the story is so well-told that you won't be able to put the book down...you will want to know what happens to each character, and why. You will be so instantly engrossed that even the unbelievably breathtaking views of the Caribbean will not cause you to lift your head up from the pages of this book. At least that was my experience.

READ IT! Then share with others. You won't be sorry.
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Format: Hardcover
I did not read Million Little Pieces, but after Oprahs ridiculous self-absorbed scene I wanted to support James and just had a feeling that he was good.

Wow. I haven't enjoyed a book this much since The Corrections. This is a great book. JAMES FREY IS A BLESSING TO THIS WORLD.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel is a real mixed bag. Juvenile, cliched and unoriginal- yet it creeps in under your skin and you can't help but be hooked. Just read it- everyone is going to have a different opinion and you won't have yours until you do.
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Format: Hardcover
First off I should say that I actually like James Frey as an author. A fiction author, that is. With Bright Shiny Morning he tells you in the beginning of the book that nothing in it is true, then proceeds to tell you the stories of four characters: Amberton, a movie star who's secretly gay, Esperanza, a young Mexican American woman who works for a dreadful old lady, Joe, a drunk who tries to save a meth-addicted girl, and Dylan and Maddie, a couple that leave their small town to try to start a new life in LA. Interspersed throughout the book are also various vignettes about dozens of different people and lives in LA, as well as facts about the city itself. While the book is ambitious and wide in its scope, the stories themselves are too cliche to be interesting after the first 300 pages. During most of the book I found myself asking "How many times have I seen these kinds of stories in print before?" Toward the end of the book I literally found myself skipping over much of it, as the facts and vignettes had ceased to hold any interest for me. All in all, the book is far too broad and could have been scaled back by about 200 pages. I'd be interested in Frey's future writing projects, but this book just really didn't do it for me. I'll probably sell this one on Ebay.
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