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A little bit of romance...
on 29 September 2012
This is fairly short at 160 pages or so. Seems the author intended this to be about twice the length, going by the notes at the end. The actual novel, in its unfinished form I'd say is ok, not amazing. The fact, that, it's set in Hollywood and centred around it, is no big deal, in my opinion. The best part of the novel is the romantic relationship between M Stahr and the coy, sort of enigmatic Kathleen; the movie stuff is fairly incidental.
The writing is very good in parts, very subtle, at times sad and moving. Romance, or failed romance, was, of course, the author's main preoccupation. While that aspect of the writing is enjoyable, large parts of the novel are fairly ordinary. Stahr sits in a room with movie people, watching screen tests; doesn't like them, gives orders to change them; has a slightly fearsome presence etc... Does that make it the great, definitive novel on Hollywood? Some would like you to think so.
I liked it, but don't feel there is anything exceptional about it. I can't compare it to 'The Great Gatsby' as I read that ages ago, but it's spurred me on to read 'Tender is the Night'.
There's a short and pompous introduction to the book, by friend and fellow writer Edmund Wilson, which is frankly nonsense. He claims it's FSF's most mature work and a true landmark in modern literature and other such daft stuff... Actually, it's just a story about a guy that makes films, falls for a good looking woman and discovers he can't have her. Nothing more, nothing less...
Still, not a bad read.