Friday, October 17, 2008

reviews: "bright shiny morning"

*"bright shiny morning," james frey

a friend said i should read this book because it's about LA, and i "live" in LA (oh, and because she promotes it for work), but i have absolutely no interest in james frey or books about LA, so i compromised and listened to it instead, in the car. i bought the CDs at a barnes & noble with maysan when i was driving back to nh from ca, and i finished it last week after leaving maysan in ohio on my way back to ca from nh. it took me half a year to get through a bullshit airport book, and i feel like a deserve a medal. or at least a publishing deal.

i've struggled to describe to people why this book is so bad, so painful, so unnecessary, and i think the short answer is this-- it's a quite possibly the least original book i've ever read. the author knows he has nothing original to say about los angeles, but he seems to figure that if he says *a lot* of unoriginal things-- possibly every unoriginal thing-- that will make not only make up for it, but make it a modern epic. perhaps he figured that if he managed to convince oprah he did hard time for being a drugged up badass when he really just did community service for a dwi, anything's possible.

one thing frey can be proud of is that there will never be a more complete compendium of the most stale, tired clichés about los angeles. did you know that famous hollywood actors are often spoiled and in the closet? that good, hardworking americans come to LA filled with dreams and hope? that even the most alcoholic of LA's homeless can have hearts of gold? odds are, you've rarely heard or seen anything else. but now you can have it all in one place.

and if that's not enough, the book is interspersed with random lists and facts about LA/southern california in general, so you can not only read, say, about an earnest, kind mexican-american woman stereotype working as a maid for an rich, evil boss stereotype, but also learn about the history of the freeway system and the history of LA's chinatown. oh, and you can read it written in a completely humorless, macho style that ads an extra level of annoying to the proceedings. this book is like a lifetime movie if it were directed by a 3rd rate quentin tarantino. with the same length and tone as shoah.

what i would love to read-- and i know it's out there, i'm just too lazy to search it out-- is a book about LA that goes beyond the standard bullshit about dreamers, mini-malls, and traffic. maybe the problem is that 99% of the writers in LA a, aren't from there and only know the basic shit/stuff we've all seen on TV, b, spend all their time there with other writers, in their homes, or in their cars, which is not the stuff of great novels (or even mildly humorous anecdotes), and c, aren't dumb enough to try and take such an absurd place seriously. it's like trying to write a dramatic epic about the daily goings on at disney world, as told by a tourist. and if frey was trying to show LA's magnificance beyond the artifice, using nothing but artifice kind of defeats the purpose.

[photo: "welcome to hollywood, what's your dream?" = quoted almost verbatim in frey's great work of literature.]

the weird thing is, frey was so good at making stuff up when he was supposed to be writing nonfiction, and now that he's writing fiction, he can't come up with shit. (it's not just the endless clichés-- one of the many random vignettes in the book is, without actually using his name, a straight-forward biography of perez hilton. it's like reading wikipedia, but even less interesting.) by this time next week, i'll be back in my crumbling apartment in s'lake, listening to the helicopters thunder overhead, eating pinkberry at in my running clothes, and generally living like any other boring asshole in los angeles. and somehow, it will still be more more interesting than this piece of shit book.

[i'm leaving indiana tuesday morning, so i'll write up the trip up to now tomorrow night, altho there's really not much to write up. and sorry molly, but i'm taking my misery through missouri. charm of the highway strip, indeed.]

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