Saturday, March 13, 2010

Five best novels on Hollywood

Jane Ciabattari is the author of the critically acclaimed short-story collection, Stealing the Fire.

For The Daily Beast, she named a five best list of novels on Hollywood. One title on the list:
Children of Light
by Robert Stone

Welcome to Heebiejeebieville. Cross-addicted star-crossed lovers converge on a film set in Mexico in the late 1970s, before Hollywood embraced 12-step programs.

Walter, a fortyish actor turned script writer, is an unwelcome guest to the set; he arrives drunk, bearing cocaine and Quaaludes. Louisiana-born actress Lu Anne has gone off her meds; she thinks they damage her work in the starring role. She is hallucinating “Long Friends” and offering her “secret eyes” to the camera. The film being shot? Get this: Walter’s adapation of the feminist classic The Awakening by Kate Chopin, in which Edna commits suicide by walking into the water. Lu Anne is basing her mood on Walter’s notes, which have Edna dying for “life more abundant.” “She has come beyond despair to a kind of exaltation.”

Among those watching from the sidelines: the Drogues, a father-son director duo focused on getting the work no matter what (“She has a way of being crazy that photographs well,” the elder Drogue says); Lowndes, a New York-based journalist who falls off the wagon out of lust for Lu Anne, and Billy Bly, a bisexual stunt man who serves as her emotional anchor.

Stone’s dialogue is sharp, his eye for corruption, spoilage, and backbiting acute, as in this comment Walter makes to Lu Anne: “Funny about last night. You’re with Lowndes, you go off with me. You’re with me, you go off with Bly. Lots of La Ronde, entrances and exits, bedrooms and closed doors and nobody really gets any. Very Hollywood.”

With Children of Light, Stone freeze-frames a Hollywood era in crystalline prose.

P.S. “High Wire,” a short story in Stone’s new collection, Fun with Trouble, reprises the plotline: an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter is addicted to a bipolar actress.
Read about another novel on the list.

Also see Whit Stillman's five best list of books about Hollywood and Robert Osborne's five best list of books about Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue