Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Million Little Facts

I'm still reading James Frey's new book, Bright Shiny Morning — 150 pages to go.

What keeps me going is I've always found Los Angeles fascinating, as a place and as a symbol.

The book is about L.A.

L.A. is the main character.

L.A. is the only thing holding the narrative together.

There's just enough there to keep me going, but I can't say I'd recommend the book to anyone. Unless Frey manages to pull everything together at the end. Which I still hope he can do. But I doubt it.

At times I've been tempted to throw the book through a window or tear it into a million little pieces, a million little pieces. The writing is that bad. Sometimes. Sometimes it's brilliant though. Sometimes it really works.

The book got a great review in the New York Times. Said Frey redeemed himself.

Good, I thought.

I had been waiting for Frey to come out with a novel, not a phony memoir like A Million Little Pieces (which I loved and later hated because it was all a lie).

Oddly, the book doesn't say "A Novel" on the cover or anywhere else. There's just the title and the author's name and that page at the beginning that says:

"Nothing about this book should be considered accurate or reliable."

Nice touch.

Then, between each chapter, you're treated to a historical anecdote. And whole chapters are devoted to fun facts and not fun facts about L.A. There are chapters about the highway system, about the neighborhoods, about the rockers, surfers, slaves, and stars who make up the City of Dreams.

Characters come and go and a few of them come back but not as many as you would think.

The irony is that this work of fiction has more facts in it than Frey's so-called memoir.

Not that I can vouch for their accuracy.


Mark Richardson said...

I've always lived stories about L.A. too. There is something literary about the city. I think that is one of the reasons why I like Bukowski.

"You live in a town all your life, and you get to know every street corner. You've got the layout of the whole land. You have a picture of where you are....Since I was raised in L.A., I've always had the geographical and spiritual feeling of being here. I've had time to learn this city. I can't see any other place than L.A"

The Mikster said...

Hi Alster, Always good to take a peek at what's going on in your mind. Now I'm not being critical or anything but...

OK, I admit that I haven't read A Million Little Pieces. I like to think that my fascination with drug-addled heroes is a part of my sordid past.

What I don't get is that people who read the book when they thought it was a true story and LOVED it, now revile it because it's fiction. Is it still a good story? Still engaging? Did the words somehow change overnight? I might be missing something--ok, like he publicized it as biographical--but a good read is still a good read in my book. (Pun totally intended.)
The Mikster

Al Riske
(a.k.a. The Alster)

Good point, Mikster. I was painting with a pretty broad brush just then. I don't really hate A Million Little Pieces -- just the deception of calling it a memoir.