I've been getting through a lot of books these past 18 months, it's one of the things I love about having time on my hands and long bus or boat journeys. I don't often comment on ones in my reading list, unless they really blow me away...a rating is the best I usually do. The exception last year was What Is The What, and I was pleased a few of you read it and enjoyed it.
James Frey has been vilified in recent years after he published a book about his life called A Million Little Pieces. He made several claims in it about his past as a drug addict and prisoner in a state penitentiary. The Smoking Gun exposed him as a charlatan, and he became a pariah, famously torn to pieces by Oprah Winfrey. It was all a little unfair, as Frey had struggled to publish the book...a publisher had said it would go further if published as a memoir. The rest is painful history for Frey.
I didn't get round to reading that book, but saw Bright Shiny Morning on a dive shop bookshelf. I've never been inclined to visit Los Angeles, but that has all changed after reading it.
The book has four central stories, and woven between these are shorter tales, snapshots of the lives of LA residents, most of whom are never mentioned again in the novel. Before each chapter is a fact about LA and its history; from its inauguration to the slow-speed car chase involving OJ Simpson; the Manson Murders to the LA riots. It's gripping, beautifully written, funny and sad. I devoured its 570 pages in just two days. His two other books will be picked up when I get home. For those of you who trust my judgment, pick up this one.