PAY OR PLAY

The latest in a spate of Playeresque novels, this entertaining first fiction by Boorstin (The Hollywood Eye, 1990) borrows from the recent big-studio production disasters of our time, from Apocalypse Now to Bonfire of the Vanities, to invent a movie so bungled (and expensive) that it never gets finished. The cast of broadly drawn characters is full of types clearly derived from the pages of Variety. And the plot begins with a typically Hollywood bit of overweening ambition when a hustling mailroom clerk at an Ovitz-like agency uses a brilliant script he's intercepted to propel himself into the business. Titled ``The Agonizor,'' it's been written expressly for Klaus Frotner, the action-adventure megastar who's a client of the agency. The author, Elmo Zwalt, nurtures the dream of all first-timers—he wants to direct, which is unthinkable on the budget proposed for the film. Instead, Jason Fo, the producer son of the studio head, brings in the artsy Christopher Parrot, a Woody Allen type who seldom works outside New York and has directed only small, wry, personal dramas. When Parrot flees from the production, in steps the unlikely Homer Dooley, a former film teacher at a Vermont community college who inadvertently recorded some amazing footage on the conflict between the lumber industry and ecoterrorists. The resulting documentary won the basically talentless Dooley an Academy Award. Frotner hopes that Dooley will act as his puppet once filming begins down in New Guinea, where they have re-created a Brazilian rain forest. The film, awash in debt, is stalked by disasters, and ultimately destroyed by Frotner's weird fate. The problem here is that it's hard to parody an industry so skilled at parodying itself. Boorstin's novel has energy, wit, and some very sharp scenes, but it ultimately seems insufficiently savage: It's not nearly as bizarre as the business it wants to skewer.

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-7867-0359-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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