For lovers of Hollywood, this novel offers an immersive look at the past and present of the movie business, though its plot...

Lulu in Babylon

Silver (20th Century Travel, 2010) delivers a Hollywood coming-of-age story with a reverence for the stars and stories of old Hollywood.

Fifteen-year-old Lulu comes to Los Angeles to spend the summer with her father, Milo, a hotshot director, and her stepmother, Francesca, an actress on the rise. Lulu is there not only to spend time with her father after a long time away, but also because her mother, Claire, is battling cancer. Lulu is a fish out of water in glitzy Hollywood, having grown up in Boston with her patrician mother’s family, and she must learn to get by in the strange new environment. Silver also focuses on Ben Robbins, a producer trying to get a new production company off the ground, as well as on excerpts from the diary of Lulu’s grandfather, Abe. These entries give readers a slice of life from old Hollywood, filled with big stars and even bigger personalities. Parties and dinners make up the bulk of the book; Ben sets up meals to promote his projects, Abe writes about going to three parties or more per night, and Lulu goes to high-profile events with her father. At one, Lulu meets Connor, a young, handsome actor on the cusp of stardom, and they quickly hit it off, adding a romantic undercurrent to Lulu’s conventional story of growth. However, Silver’s frequent use of aforementioned party and dinner scenes gets repetitive; a trip on a yacht in the Mediterranean in the book’s latter half is a welcome change. Some analogies are clunky (“her voice was high and chirpy, as if she’d just had a date with a helium tank”), but, for the most part, Silver’s writing is clear and light. She also has a great handle on details, from the preferred brands of celebrities to the formulaic way that Hollywood people talk to one another, be it glad-handing industry talk or gossip. Lulu and Ben are well-drawn, but much of the supporting cast is thinly characterized, leading to an uneven reading experience.

For lovers of Hollywood, this novel offers an immersive look at the past and present of the movie business, though its plot beats may be overly familiar.

Pub Date: April 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9905602-8-9

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Marmont Lane

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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