Two Views of Frey’s New ‘Morning’

A Million Little Pieces
author James Frey has come out with a new novel about Los Angeles.  The book, — Bright Shiny Morning — is of the sweeping-panorama-of-the-city variety.   I’ve read two reviews of the new book so far, and I thought the reactions were worth pointing out to Fake Angeleno readers.

The New York Times critic loved it.

The million little pieces guy was called James Frey.
He got a second act. He got another chance. Look what he did with it.
He stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park. No more lying,
no more melodrama, still run-on sentences still funny punctuation but
so what. He became a furiously good storyteller this time.

wrote a big book. He wrote about a city. Los Angeles. He made up a lot
of characters, high low rich poor lucky not, every kind, the book threw
them together. It was random but smart. Every now and then he would
pause the story, switch to the present tense and throw in an urban fact. …

James Frey loved Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski and maybe even John Fante
but he didn’t sound like them, he didn’t sound beat or cool. He sounded
hopeful. He sounded unguarded, tender. He quit posturing. He stopped
romanticizing squalor. He found new energy. He sounded more like Carl
Sandburg in love hate thrall with great maddening Chicago than like the
usual tough gritty moody chronicler of California’s broken dreams.

The L.A. Times critic hated it. 

"Bright Shiny Morning" is a terrible book. One of the worst I’ve ever
read. …  Frey seems to know little about Los Angeles and to have no interest in
it as a real place where people wrestle with actual life. There are
obligatory riffs on freeways and natural disasters and a chapter on
visual artists that lists "the highest price ever paid for a piece of
their work in a public auction." There are also occasional installments
of "Fun Facts" about the city, as if to give the illusion of a certain
depth. Did you know that it is "illegal to lick a toad within the city
limits of Los Angeles"? Neither did I. But I also don’t know what this
has to do with the larger story of the novel, except as another example
of L.A. as odd and quirky, a territory in which we all "live with
Angels and chase their dreams."

Frey, of course, intends this to be amusing, lighthearted and witty in
tone. ("Learning fun facts is really an enjoyable, and sometimes
enlightening process," he writes. "And, of course, it’s fun too!!!") It
comes off as two-dimensional, however, not to mention poorly written
and conceived — much like the book’s narrative elements.

Talk amongst yourselves…


  1. JW
  2. Laura