A veteran screenwriter wrestles with his culture’s and his own demons in this first novel from the Florida author (stories: The Task of This Translator, 2005).
Fortysomething Daniel Bloom, channeling anger at the Hollywood insiders who altered and retitled his best-ever original script, Captives, as the box office hit Helsinki Honeymoon, conceives a writerly revenge, in a story idea in which “someone…go[es] around taking out elected officials and corporate executives.” When Daniel acknowledges his wish that this fiction become reality, his annoyingly hip agent Holden challenges Bloom to simulate the experience of violence he has only imagined. Pretending he’s shopping for a firearm, Daniel embarrasses himself at a gun dealer’s shooting range. Growing apart from both his embittered wife and their understandably distracted 13-year-old son, he next seeks advice from, and crosses swords with, his synagogue’s fast-talking new rabbi Ethan Brenner (who sounds a lot like stand-up comic David Brenner). The novel trudges along, blending lengthy conversations with tedious self-analysis, and the book begins to feel like a short-story idea expanded to interminable length. Then Daniel—a contemporary Leopold Bloom (?) embarking on an odyssey of self-discovery—impulsively travels to Tel Aviv, bonds with Israelis, who reveal themselves as freedom fighters and film geeks, and experiences shock waves pounding away at his theories about violence as an instrument of justice. Returning home, he finds discord, betrayal and—paradoxically—a rueful wisdom tinted with streaks of grace. The novel improves in its later pages, but it’s too long, excessively redundant and inexplicably dependent on Daniel’s labored talks with the whiz-kid rabbi, the imperturbable Holden (who adopts one movie-related moniker after another, while pursuing Hollywood nubiles) and Bloom’s world-weary Israeli contact Nadav.
If Captives hit the big screen, it would be an Andy Warhol movie without the sex. Borrring!