by Sukey HowardSeptember, 2008
Tales of Tinseltown
James Frey, the controversial (well, that's putting it mildly) author of A Million Little Pieces, the best - selling memoir that stretched the limits of nonfiction to the breaking point, returns to the literary fray with a novel that stretches other limits, but manages to mesmerize while doing so. Bright Shiny Morning is a wild ride, a sprawling portrait of diverse, perverse Los Angeles made up of quick takes and extended stories, peppered with lists - gang names, names of museums, highway numbers, numbers of immigrants, natural disasters, etc. - and anchored to a history of L.A. dispensed in fascinating, eclectic bits from its founding in 1781 to the present. The unique juxtaposition of facts, factoids and fiction has the feel and the sound of a collage swirling by as you wait for the next installment of four narratives: homeless, Chablis - soaked Old Man Joe attempts an act of doomed heroism on the Venice beach; Esperanza, the beloved daughter of illegal Mexicans, tries valiantly to make them proud; Maddie and Dylan, 19 - year - old escapees from abusive homes in the Midwest, search for a safe haven; Ambertin Cooper, superstar and not - so - closeted closet queen, abuses his power and privilege with astounding, but accepted, arrogance. Ben Foster reads with a bit too much road rage, but hey, this is L.A.
Fanatics have their dreams
"If you are reading this letter, I am dead." You won't get to that letter and its revelations until the end of Emilio Calder
The Story of a Marriage, Andrew Sean Greer's elegant, elegiac, skillfully layered novel, is told in the first person by Pearlie Cook, a young wife and mother living in San Francisco just after World War II and just before the Korean War. "We think we know the ones we love," Pearlie says as she introduces herself, her devastatingly handsome husband, Holland, and their carefully scripted life. Then, suddenly, all Pearlie does know about Holland is put into doubt when a well - dressed stranger rings their bell on a quiet afternoon and turns her world inside out with what he reveals. From then on we move with Pearlie as she fights and flounders, waiting for her family to splinter, for the stranger (now an odd, integral part of their lives) to exercise his will, for Holland to yield to it. I don't mean to be cryptic, but it's better to listen, to be drawn in by S. Epatha Merkerson's extraordinary, finely nuanced performance, to find out, as Pearlie ultimately does, who Holland really is, where his passions lie and how the story of this marriage played out.