A successful novelist goes to Hollywood to court failure.
Miles, a SoHo loft-dwelling novelist du moment, is offered the opportunity of a lifetime—mucho bucks to write a screenplay based on his breakout novel, about a spy named Savage. His story is told in journal entries spanning roughly a year during Miles’ stay in the Hollywood Hills. The usual fish-out-of-water clichés obtain: too many Lexuses, strip malls and retro diners; producers who vacillate between effusive flattery and stony inaccessibility; and a Fellini-esque director with Rabelaisian appetites. However, McCloy’s focus is not on the vagaries of “the industry” but on Miles’ personal torments, all of which are self-inflicted wounds. While retrieving calls from his NYC answering machine, he hears a message from his favored creative-writing student, Connor, directed at his wife, ultra-urbane journalist Maggie: “Meet me at five.” He immediately concludes that Connor and Maggie are having an affair. He allows this admittedly paranoid deduction to go untested by any attempt to discuss the matter with either his wife or Connor—and these are not exactly nonverbal people. Acting on the assumed estrangement, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, Miles stays in Hollywood to complete his script, rather than working from Manhattan. In Griffith Park he meets a young mother, Lucy, and her charming three-year-old, Walter. Although she’s studying Nietzsche, Proust and Baudelaire, the effortlessly beautiful Lucy is clearly the nurturing counterpoint to Maggie’s austere intellectualism and obsession with fitness, grooming and shoes. The two women, too obviously, represent Miles’ bicoastal dislocation. While one session of couples counseling may have been enough to sort out what’s happening between Maggie and Miles, there wouldn’t be a novel if they’d just told the truth. As if to fill the structural void left by spousal miscommunication, Miles and Lucy’s affair takes up far more real estate than the believability of their attraction warrants.
McCloy’s mesmerizing prose almost redeems the exasperating plot.