TINSEL by William Goldman


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Screenwriter Goldman (Butch Cassidy, etc.) is at his unputdownable best in fiction when using his slick knack for atmosphere and zippy dialogue as texture for genuine suspense--as in Marathon Man. In this bitchy Hollywood gossipfest, however, the only suspense is: Who will be cast as the lead in a film about Marilyn Monroe's last days, a role that Raquel Welch has already turned down because of the extensive nudity involved? Will it be desperate ""Pig"" Higgins--the bosomy sometime actress and ""hooker without portfolio"" who's shacked up in Vegas with the has-been rock-star who's doing the music for the picture? Or will it be sultry Ginger Abraham--long-ago victim of anorexia nervosa and bisexual ex-starlet, the only woman who ever really reached famed womanizer Julian Garvey (n‚ Garfinkel), who is producing this last movie (he's dying) along with his semi-catatonic son? Or will it be likable Dixie Crowder, ex-TV star (Daisy Mae in the Dogpatch series) now married to a millionaire Hollywood dentist-tycoon who loathes show-biz and will leave Dixie if she even thinks of acting again? Without any more plot than that, Goldman can only bounce around from character to character, filling in their sleazy show-biz backgrounds and mostly sleazy sex lives. Just about all of this is standard issue (especially the teen sex), with such predictable motifs as Pig's disastrous attempt at a breast-lift. . . a heavy irony right out of Valley of the Dolls. So why will Tinsel be read by many who eschew the pulp it so clearly resembles? For Goldman's stunningly cadenced, often hilarious movie-biz dialogue; for his mean-spirited, no-punches-pulled slashes at the business that has made him rich, complete with names named and other hinted; and for the occasionally inspired details of characterization and atmosphere (the opening chapter is dandy), which remind us that Goldman can be something like a real novelist when he tries. With so much going for it, Tinsel is never less than readable; but it can be read just about as well backwards as forwards--because this time Goldman has brought his bag of tricks and left the other talents at home. (By the way, in a cheap ending to a cheap book, Barbra Streisand gets the part, and Pig shrieks: ""With those tits is she gonna play it?"")

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1979
Publisher: Delacorte