An aging film scholar is visited by elegant Hollywood ghosts bearing interactive home movies of his childhood.
“Welcome to your life, Felix Funicello!” Film expert Funicello is one of the few people who would be able to place the “translucent females” who appear to him one night at the Garde, the old vaudeville theater in New London, Connecticut, where he holds his Monday night film club. They are the shades of underrated silent-movie director Lois Weber and the leading lady of one of her pictures, Billie Dove, and they have returned from the afterlife to enlighten Felix about his past. “Now as soon as you’ve grounded yourself in the scene,” Weber explains, “you will be a child again, inside your home on Herbert Hoover Avenue, directed by your 6-year-old brain.” Felix is sucked right into the action and starts narrating in 6-year-old. “My busquito bites are itching me like crazy!” In the course of this and subsequent screenings, Funicello family secrets involving anorexia, unwanted pregnancy, and other female troubles are revealed. In between movie nights, Felix talks on the phone with his daughter, Aliza, a writer for New York magazine. Through her, he gets his exposure to current slang and culture, from polyamory to post-feminism to the new unisex application of terms such as “balls-to-the-wall” and “grow a pair.” In return, he helps Aliza with the feature she’s been assigned on the old Miss Rheingold beauty contest, to which the family has a connection. This novel is the print version of a narrative designed to appear in an app, with multimedia components and effects. It's possible that the idiosyncrasies of Lamb’s (We Are Water, 2013, etc.) sixth novel will work better in that format.
There’s a novel in here somewhere, buried under film trivia, corny commentary, a convoluted premise, and a 17-page article about the Miss Rheingold contest.