I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces quite a few years ago, long before The Smoking Gun outed him for having fibbed about it being a memoir, but this didn’t bother me (not nearly as much as finding out large chunks of Roots were nicked from The African by Harold Courlander anyway) and so I picked up Bright Shiny Morning in WH Smith one day and promptly forgot about it. While waiting for some books I ordered from the library, I thought I’d give it a go although the reviews on amazon are less than glowing (think unlit candles that have been trodden into the ground then smeared around a bit).
Firstly, syntax and punctuation pedants steer clear. Steer very clear. If I wrote like this for an OU assignment, I’d get a big fat fail (although we’re not exactly encouraged to be adventurous with our writing; maybe someone ought to point out to them the word ‘creative’ in the course title). Frey’s writing in this is less like stream of consciousness and more like he’s forgotten any of the rules of writing, i.e. sometimes a comma comes in handy. Even I know that, although some of you may disagree if you’ve ever read any posts on my other blog.
E.g. Dylan comes home after a long day two bags one was a doctor who blamed Dylan for most of his bad shots and only tipped him ten bucks the other a pen salesman who got drunk and yelled. Maddie has dinner on the table chicken parmigiana and pasta Dylan can smell a pie maybe cherry.
This doesn’t bother me too much and I find I can actually read it but some of the time I had to go back and re-read it for it to make sense. He also hasn’t read the OU guidelines about how to set out dialogue but as Frey isn’t doing an OU course, I don’t suppose this bothers him too much.
Is there a story? Oh yes, the story. There’s four stories, all set in LA, each with characters who never meet:
Esperanza, a poor cleaner with unfeasibly large thighs who falls for her employer’s son, Doug.
Amberton, a mega-rich, mega-successful actor. The lamest character in the book. I couldn’t give a shit about him.
Dylan and Maddie. Ran away from their abusive parents to start a new life in LA.
Old Man Joe. Thirty-eight years old but looks in his seventies, due to life on the street.
In between their stories are fillers, showing us other characters and facts you never knew you wanted to know about LA (how many of these are fictional and how many are real I neither know nor care). Personally I could have done without these fillers. At over five hundred pages, the book’s long enough to have these chopped out and still have a long enough read.
So, now that I’ve just spent over four hundred words slagging it off, it’d be reasonable for you to assume that I didn’t like it. But I did. I felt for all the characters, bar Amberton. The syntax didn’t annoy me and it worked with the flow of the book, I just could have done without the fillers.