THE WAY WE LIVED THEN by Dominick Dunne


Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper
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            From the scrapbooks of the fashionable novelist and magazine writer, a surprisingly forthright memoir that chronicles in snapshots and words decades of earthly delight in Hollywood, months of contrition, and a penitent return to rewarding work.

            Dunne (A Season in Purgatory, 1993, etc.) is the author of successful romans à clef about Hollywood and “society”; he’s also a regular contributor to Vanity Fair magazine, where his assignments included coverage of the Claus von Bülow and O.J. Simpson trials.  That is the rewarding work.  What came before was a privileged childhood, WWII service in which he both won a Bronze Star and had his PFC stripe ripped off, and Williams College, where he knew Stephen Sondheim.  Dunne launched his theatrical career as a stage manager for TV’s Howdy Doody.  Good references and a fortuitous marriage led to a satisfactory career in TV and film production in Hollywood and access to the star-studded parties described and photographed here.  Pictures of his children and wife predominate, along with candids of Hollywood celebrities including Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood (a favorite), the young Nancy and Ronald Reagan, and even the British royals Margaret and Snowden.  Bizarre anecdotes (Frank Sinatra hired a waiter to punch Dunne out) are interspersed with the banal (Truman Capote was a great dancer).  Dunne gradually turned into a self-confessed “asshole,” drinking and doping, until his wife ejected him and he fled to a six-month retreat in a tourist cabin in Oregon.  Along his way to recovery and journalistic celebrity, the mother of his children was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and his beloved daughter was murdered.

            The dark thread that underlies the mostly frivolous tales keeps this book on a par with his most successful novels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-609-60388-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1999


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