Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Eight books that illuminate the hidden histories of Hollywood

Matthew Specktor’s books include the novels That Summertime Sound and American Dream Machine, which was long-listed for the Folio Prize; the memoir-in-criticism Always Crashing in The Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California, and The Golden Hour, forthcoming from Ecco Press.

[The Page 69 Test: American Dream Machine]

Born in Los Angeles, Specktor received his BA from Hampshire College in 1988, and his MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College in 2009. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, The Paris Review, Tin House, Black Clock, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. He is a founding editor of the Los Angles Review of Books.

At Electric Lit Specktor tagged eight top stories of Los Angeles and the movie-making industry, including:
Children of Light by Robert Stone

If you have to read one book about a screenwriter gone completely off the rails, I’d recommend this one. Stone was a genius, of course—one of the pillars of late-century American paranoid brilliance, alongside Denis Johnson and DeLillo—and all of his novels are amazing, like Joseph Conrad stuffed to the gills with mescaline.

This one follows said screenwriter, Gordon Walker, to Mexico, where he plans to oversee his own adaptation of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. To say this plan goes to hell would be an understatement. In a sense, this novel includes all the archetypes—not just ruined writer, but egomaniacal director, out-of-control starlet, and many others—but Stone’s vision is so grand and fevered it transcends nearly everything and arrives (like Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, which may be this novel’s closest cousin) at a place I wouldn’t hesitate to call “religious.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Children of Light is among Michael Friedman’s ten best Hollywood novels, David Bowman's five great noir novels from the post-Chandler generations and Jane Ciabattari's five best novels on Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue