A Hollywood version—literally—of how the American Dream continues to con people with its seductive illusion.

AMERICAN DREAM MACHINE

For Beau Rosenwald and his cronies in the talent agency business in the ’60s and ’70s, the American Dream Machine is alive but not always well.

Beau is the quintessential American Dreamer who feels nothing can hold him back from his own success. Despite his disjunctive name (he’s physically unprepossessing, in fact downright ugly), he has charm and on his best days, charisma. Since Hollywood is a happenin’ place in the early ’60s, Beau migrates there from New York, shortly after having gotten Rachel Roth pregnant, with twins no less. After a hasty marriage, Beau leaves Rachel and the kids in New York and heads back to LA, for after all, that’s where his future lies. He hooks up with the Talented Artists Group and becomes an agent for Bryce Beller, a hapless actor whom Beau hawks as the next person to kiss Natalie Wood on screen. Eventually, he gets Bryce a role in The Dog’s Tail, a “poetic” film Beau is trying to put together. The narrator of the novel, Beau’s son by an office fling, caustically summarizes the film: “[The] script was fathomless, yet apart from the shuddersome beginning and the end, not much happened.” Needless to say, in a city where you’re judged by your last critical success, Beau’s stock goes down. Interoffice politics soon cause Beau to break away from TAG and link up with another talent agency, the American Dream Machine, and at least for a while, things go well, for they seem to be signing legitimate talent, but ultimately, ADM becomes a mockery of its own self-naming. Beau’s life plays out against the issues of his family woes: the death of his daughter and the emotional wallop of two “friends” discovering they’re in fact stepbrothers.

A Hollywood version—literally—of how the American Dream continues to con people with its seductive illusion.

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-935639-44-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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Read this for insights about writing, about losing one’s mother, about dealing with a cranky sous-chef and a difficult...

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WRITERS & LOVERS

A Boston-area waitress manages debt, grief, medical troubles, and romantic complications as she finishes her novel.

“There are so many things I can’t think about in order to write in the morning,” Casey explains at the opening of King’s (Euphoria, 2014, etc.) latest. The top three are her mother’s recent death, her crushing student loans, and the married poet she recently had a steaming-hot affair with at a writer’s colony. But having seen all but one of her writer friends give up on the dream, 31-year-old Casey is determined to stick it out. After those morning hours at her desk in her teensy garage apartment, she rides her banana bike to work at a restaurant in Harvard Square—a setting the author evokes in delicious detail, recalling Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, though with a lighter touch. Casey has no sooner resolved to forget the infidel poet than a few more writers show up on her romantic radar. She rejects a guy at a party who reveals he’s only written 11 1/2 pages in three years—“That kind of thing is contagious”—to find herself torn between a widowed novelist with two young sons and a guy with an irresistible broken tooth from the novelist's workshop. Casey was one of the top two golfers in the country when she was 14, and the mystery of why she gave up the sport altogether is entangled with the mystery of her estrangement from her father, the latter theme familiar from King’s earlier work. In fact, with its young protagonist, its love triangle, and its focus on literary ambition, this charmingly written coming-of-age story would be an impressive debut novel. But after the originality and impact of Euphoria, it might feel a bit slight.

Read this for insights about writing, about losing one’s mother, about dealing with a cranky sous-chef and a difficult four-top.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4853-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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