Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

My boss gave me this book to read. It only took me three months to talk myself into reading. Well, I started to read it right away, and then went, “hmmm.” Then I put it down and didn’t read it. I let it sit with a few other books I told other people I’d read. I’ve felt it’s been an oppressive presence for weeks now, and decided that I was just going to read it if only to be able to give it back to my boss. I sure as shit wasn’t going to hand it back without having read it.

When she gave it to me she apologized for the bad grammar, because I’m the grammar queen at work. I didn’t have to fight anyone for that title. I think I’m one of the few that actually went to college. And of the people who went to college, I’m the only one with a degree in English. Also, she was taught that good grammar equals good literature, no exceptions. Basically, I was worried. When I think of bad grammar in books, I think of that website dedicated to posting all of the bad grammar instances in Twilight. There was enough for pages worth of posts. The grammar is awful. I was really scared.

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Generally, I hate when people recommend books to me. Stop. I’ don’t like being told what to watch or what to read. Just because you told me to do it, I won’t do it. I have problems with authority. Also, I know what I want to read. I have a never ending list of things I want to read. I don’t need anymore suggestions. I’m drowning in titles. (Just kidding. Keep suggesting things to me, but don’t be offended if I don’t get to it this year.) Plus, she’s my BOSS. What if I hate the book? What if the grammar is so terrible I can’t finish it? I think 40 % of me not reading the book for so long was that I couldn’t deal with the possibility of thinking the book was absolute junk.

But I finally finished it. And the grammar was in fact bad, though not how you might expect it. James Frey wrote the way he did purposely. He used it to set up a rhythm to the sentences, and a sort of attitude. Let me scrounge for an example. Meyer set out to write an average styled book. She wasn’t trying anything with the grammar or the structure of the book. She channeled average modes, instead choosing to play with ideas and plot. Which means that when she did a terrible job at grammar and writing, it was distracting and upsetting. Frey’s abuse of the English language was blatant and intentional. So while it took a bit to get used to, I wasn’t angered. I just spent time trying to figure out the purpose.

Like I said, the structure of his sentences gave a rhythm to the book, which I enjoyed. The words thrummed like listening to lots of cars on a highway, which was convenient because the whole book was about Los Angeles. In a weird way, the book was like a character profile where LA was the character. Frey turned the city into a living, breathing organism that grows and spreads and parts of it die off but there’s cellular regrowth that’s happening as well.

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The book has some narrative, but it’s not reliant on that. Four story lines travel throughout the book, but we meet hundreds of characters. Some get a line. Some get a paragraph. Some get there own four page section. Yet, none of them are heard from again. Frey pushes us into every kind of community from poorest of poor to richest of rich. Each “section”, which can be three pages or ten, is broken up by a page with a single paragraph containing a historical fact about LA. There is a section on people who’ve come to LA to be famous that lists name, talent, waiter/bartender status, and how many years they’ve been in LA. There is a section on gangs and the different names of gangs for each race represented in LA. There is a section on veteran health that lists the veterans’ names, branch of military, how they got injured, and in what war.

So much happens. It’s hard to even explain, except that it brings LA to life in an incredibly thorough sort of way. I hate the phrase “brings to life” now that I’ve said it. I always imagine it in a promotional sort of way, like, “Don’t you want to come to LA now?” Um, no. I would like to not die in a gang related crime, eat pizza out of a dumpster or be forced into sexual congress with a narcissistic actor. Oh yeah, I super don’t want to mysteriously disappear forever. Hard pass. I don’t like the beach that much.

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That sounds bad, like the book is about the horrible things that can happen to you or all the ways your dreams can be broken and unfulfilled. The book has that, but it also has a lot of ways you can fulfill your dreams. It has ways in which your life can crumble a part and you can find a new dream. It has ways where everything can go absolutely wrong but it ends up perfectly right. There’s chaos and disaster and contentment and contempt. The book comes across as honest and intriguing, almost addicting. You get sucked in reading it, but maybe that’s because there’s so much. You get lost in all of the stimuli from all of the various and diverse points of view. I imagine this book is second to actually traveling to LA and seeing it for yourself. Or maybe it’s better because it’s more varied than your trip could ever be anyway.

I probably won’t read this book again, but I’m glad that I read it. I did enjoy it in all of it’s maze like wonder. I will probably sound like an idiot when I go to explain this to my boss. My only saving hope is that she’s read the book too, so she’ll probably understand my rambling.

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