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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Meditation on Fame--Review of James Frey's Bright Shiny Morning

James Frey. Isn’t that the guy who duped Oprah? Yep. That’s him. Just read his latest book Bright Shiny Morning. It is about LA. Very interesting writer. Sort of man who skates very fast on thin ice. Not dishing the novel but I see why A Million Tiny Pieces did so well. Even if it wasn’t true, it must have read like a streak because Bright Shiny Morning reads like a streak. It is episodic. It starts and stops and takes crazy twists and ends up a in different place.

You really have to detangle the writer from the work although there is a thinly disguised chapter where Frey defends himself. He promises us tapes that will vindicate him. It is just an aside in a book of asides. And it is hardly germane to the book although one of Frey’s main themes is fame and the pilgrimage to LA for fame. There is a lot of carnage for the fame seekers and Frey spells this out very clearly for us.

But back to the novel. This is a novel. A good novel. I know why James did what he did on the first book that caused Oprah and so many others sorrow. He couldn’t sell it. Of course he couldn’t. No big hook and no big author then you are so much fodder for the rejection mill no how good the book is. But Frey is established now even if it is in the old there is no bad publicity and certainly the amount he received for this book (a cool mil and a half) bears this out. So he can now write whatever he wants and know that there is a good chunk in the bank.

So he did. Bright Shiny Morning dissects LA culture for our time. It is LA. Fast loose surface skating at about a hundred miles an hour. And it is contemporary. That is why I picked it up. I like writers who take on our time and they are hard to find. So it fits that James Frey–victim and predator is the man writing about our shameless culture of fame at any price. I could pop this review off with a snarly final sentence, ”something James Frey knows all about.” But that would demean the book and him. So I’ll finish up with the sentence that is none too cool. This is a very good novel.

William Hazelgrove's latest novel Rocket Man is due out in the fall

Books by William Hazelgrove