We haven't read it yet (somebody please send!), but the NYT has totally fallen in love with reformed lying-memoirst James Frey's Bright Shiny Morning, set in Los Angeles. Times critic Janet Maslin writes, "His publisher called it a dazzling tour de force. (Look, somebody had to, if only to create a comeback drama)... But that wasn't so far off the mark..." It's the "captivating urban kaleidoscope that, most recently, Charles Bock's 'Beautiful Children' was supposed to be." And what else?
Crisis, violence, redemption, whatever: that's what he knew about. That's what he wrote about. That's what he passed off as nonfiction. That's why he sounded as if he'd seen too many lousy movies.
So the Bright Shiny Morning guy did it differently. He let the little vignette play out against a big, gaudy, dangerous Southern California backdrop, full of drug-dealing gang-bangers, full of schemers, phonies, rich with a history of robber barons, all of it listed here, all of it stacking the deck against any generosity of spirit. The son steals the maid's virtue? Been there, read that. They plot against the old lady? Been there too. This novelist wanted something else for Esperanza: he wanted to honor her, fall in love with her, do it with startling sincerity. He wanted to save her.
And it worked.
That's how James Frey saved himself.
Maslin wrote her review in the style of Bright Shiny Morning (which you can see more of in this excerpt, about Perez Hilton). Awww, look! They love each other!
Little Pieces of Los Angeles, Done the Frey Way [NYT]