SHADOWS ON A WALL

Hollywood satire from British novelist and screenwriter Connolly (Newsdeath, 1978, etc.) that spends almost no time in Tinseltown—and that comes off more like a lumpy treatment for an overwrought TV miniseries than an indictment of the callow pop culture. When Charlie Holyoake stages his arty play about Napoleon and his Polish mistress at a Scottish theatrical festival, the bloated cinematic debacle that Shadows on a Wall will become is years—and $100 million—from Charlie's newly ambitious mind. But once amiable hack producer Harvey Baumberg begins to secure financing from unlikely quarters, it isn't long before Charlie's life goes completely to pot: Ensconced in LA, he receives a harsh intro to the contemporary studio system (money talks; no one reads anything but scripts), schtupps a starlet (wrecking a tender love affair with his girlfriend in London), and goes to war with director Bruno Messenger, a philistine enfant terrible. Matters worsen as the ante is progressively and ridiculously upped, from $5-million to $40- million and beyond, and the massive production organizes its location siege of Poland. The megalomaniacal Messenger effectively routs Charlie from the flick until the studio brings him back as a script doctor; though a wizard with images, Messenger can't do dialogue. Despite Charlie's efforts, the film—while inhaling vast sums of cash from fresh, possibly shady financiers—begins its downward spiral, which concludes (almost) with a quadruple murder. Throughout, Connolly never tires of comparing the location shoot of a movie to a military campaign: Armies of film people collide with armies of extras and blow through money like—well, like Napoleon on his way to Moscow. A raft of secondary characters and mildly piquant sexual intrigues keeps the enormous plot surging toward its feeble, Capraesque finish. The stunning twin revelations here appear to be that movies cost too much and that Hollywood screws the writer. More stalwart than successful. (First printing of 75,000)

Pub Date: July 14, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-11887-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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