May 14, 2008 / 12:08 PM / 10 years ago

Reviews mixed on new James Frey fiction

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Author James Frey’s first book since the scandal over his 2005 bestseller is receiving mixed reviews. But at least this time everyone agrees the book is fiction.

Frey sparked a major literary outcry when it was discovered that key chunks of his drugs-and-alcohol memoir “A Million Little Pieces” had been fabricated.

This time there is no argument over “Bright Shiny Morning,” an admitted work of fiction that the New York Times says restores his reputation as a writer.

But the reviewer for the Los Angeles Times says “Bright Shiny Morning” is “a terrible book, one of the worst I’ve ever read.”

“A Million Little Pieces,” first published in 2003 and presented by Frey as a factual memoir, was catapulted to the top of the bestsellers list for nonfiction in 2005 after winning praise from talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

But the book was exposed in January 2006 as having been embellished with copious passages of fiction, including exaggerated accounts of run-ins with the law and time spent in jail.

His punishment was to be savaged on U.S. television by Winfrey, who said she felt “duped” and apologized to her audience for initially standing by Frey’s book. He ultimately confessed on the show to “lying.”

A month later, he was dropped by his publisher, Riverhead Books.

HarperCollins announced in September 2007 that it would publish Frey’s novel “Bright Shiny Morning,” an admitted work of fiction for which he was paid a reported $1.5 million.

New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin, whose review of “The Da Vinci Code” in 2003 helped turn that novel into a international bestseller, mocked Frey’s writing style but called his new work “a captivating urban kaleidoscope.”

She added: “He got another chance. Look what he did with it. He stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park. No more lying, no more melodrama, still run-on sentences, still funny punctuation, but so what. He became a furiously good storyteller this time.”

But Los Angeles Times reviewer David Ulin must have been reading another book. “‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is an execrable novel, a literary train wreck without even the good grace to be entertaining,” he wrote.

Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh

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