Department Of Famous Boyfriends: Walter Kirn
Walter Kirn's zero-Fahrenheit appraisal of James Frey's new novel, Bright Shiny Morning, is a reviewing masterpiece, opening with a sharp observation about the L.A.-novel genre and building through concisely dismissive observations about Frey's prose to culminate in a series of kill shots. It isn't very bitchy, and it needn't be; Kirn's dissection of Frey's work is skilled, and Kirn's execution — precise, fresh, intolerant of cliché — stands in contrast to everything vague, stale, and trite about Frey's:
This is Frey's stab at adopting the house style of the contemporary American desert. Uninflected, flat and shadowless, it's meant to communicate, one understands from an acquaintance with California novels by the likes of Joan Didion, James Ellroy and Bret Easton Ellis, among others, the dehydrated, present-tense barrenness of life in a city of brutal superficiality. This point is not new, nor is this manner of making it, but the least one can ask of a writer who can't resist is that he maintain some sense of timing and showmanship — that he keep his act snappy since it can't be fresh.
[whistles]Nice shootin', Tex.
Kirn nails exactly what he observes that Frey can't; brings up the masters of the genre, then bars Frey from their ranks; and follows the stroke through by asking Frey to suck at less tiresome length. Brilliant, not least because Frey as a subject his own self is so loaded that it's tough for a reviewer to acknowledge Frey's notoriety while still addressing himself primarily to the current product. Kirn's impatience with Frey is evident, but it ably reflects what so many of us found galling about Frey's dishonesty — that, by passing off indulgent prose as a true story because it couldn't cut the mustard as fiction, he took a spot that belonged to a writer with chops — while keeping the review centered firmly on Frey's present offenses against literature.
The next paragraph is even icier, and when I'd finished reading it aloud to Skyrockets, I informed him that Kirn had replaced him as my boyfriend based on Kirn's acidic assertion that "it's possible — if one is used to being demeaned and has grown practiced in denial — to think that Frey is being bad on purpose."
Call me, Kirnsie. Let's hang out.
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