James Frey is Back with A Book about LA: Do You Care?
The much-maligned, oft-hated James Frey, author of the fictional memoir A Million Little Pieces and the man most well-known for being dissed on national TV by Oprah Winfrey, is back. While many now agree that blame for the whole Frey-affair rests with both Frey and his publisher, Frey got the bad end of the deal and has been vilified ever since. This time, he's sticking with fiction instead of peddling fiction-as-truth. His new novel, Bright Shiny Morning, is about LA and he's signing books tomorrow night (with Josh Kilmer Purcell and Black Tide) at the Whisky a Go Go in a joint event with Book Soup and Vroman's.
We're impressed that Frey has been quietly plugging away on a new book, despite the madness that surrounded his first one. Many writers would have called it quits after all that hoopla. Will he redeem himself with this new book? Is it a chance to finally put things right? Or does he even need to make things right in a climate where bad boys are more celebrated than good ones? For a non-fiction writer to debut his first work of fiction, it seems that much would hinge on the quality of the new book -and the accounts on this front are all over the place.
Esteemed LAT Book Editor David Ulin deemed it terrible yesterday, calling it "one of the worst I've ever read" and "an execrable novel, a literary train wreck without even the good grace to be entertaining." Worse still (if anything can be worse than that), he finds that Frey not only doesn't know LA well enough to write about it, but that he falls into the easy clichés of painting Los Angeles as a quirky but lifeless city where would-be movie stars follow their dreams. In a final blow, Ulin notes: "It's just one of the ironies of this new book that his fictionalized memoir is a better novel than 'Bright Shiny Morning' could ever hope to be."
Yet in this month's Vanity Fair interview/profile with Frey, (a great read for a closer look at the ins and outs of Frey-gate) Evgenia Peretz calls Bright Shiny Morning a "sprawling, ambitious novel about Los Angeles" that "achieves the very essence of Los Angeles's fractured, unpredictable, loopy nature." NYT's Janet Maslin likes it too, saying Frey "stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park." So which is it?
While we hate the idea of LA clichés perpetuated in novels, we wonder how off the mark he really is and if Angelenos - outside of the literary community - really care. What do you think of the Million Little Pieces mess and will you be reading Frey's new LA novel? We feel compelled to check it out and let you know.
A Million Little Pieces Controversy:
James Frey discusses Los Angeles and Bright Shiny Morning: