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Novels of the silver screen
The Covid-era restrictions imposed on the Academy Awards last month didn’t entirely extinguish the glamour of the film industry which the Oscars celebrate. Hollywood has for decades been synonymous with fame and fortune, with the glitz and glitter of red carpets and designer gowns, with stars who shine, celebrities who dazzle, and their leagues of adoring fans. Yet novels about Hollywood and its “Dream factory” tend to offer a more nightmarish vision of an off-camera world full of hacks and cynics, crushed dreams, exploitation and moral depravity.
· Maggie Walsh suddenly ditches her respectably ordinary life and marriage and runs away to Hollywood in Angels by Marian Keyes.
· The Americanisation of the Vietnam War in international film and literature is made apparent when the narrator of The Sympathizer is made a cultural advisor on the filming of a film very much like Apocalypse Now, in Viet Than Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
·Hollywood, as seen from North Korea, is represented as a site of and an instrument for propaganda, in The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.
· Beginning on Broadway and moving to California, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann is a lurid rags-to-riches tale that chronicles the rise and fall of three women in show business.
· Carrie Fisher’s fictionalised memoir of her life in Hollywood, Postcards From the Edge, tells the story of a young actress recovering from a drug overdose.
· The inner life of Marilyn Monroe is imagined in Blonde, a historical novel by Joyce Carol Oates.
· Recent revelations about the dynamics of power and sex in the movie industry were foretold in 1983 in Jackie Collins’ most successful novel, Hollywood Wives.
· American Dream Machine, by Matthew Specktor, is a sweeping saga about a Hollywood talent agency founded by two men, and their three troubled sons.
· Bill Harper’s sister disappeared, never to be seen again, unless that’s her face flashing on-screen in bit-parts, in C K Stead’s novel, Sister Hollywood.
· The British enclave in Hollywood is the target of Evelyn Waugh’s short and satirical novel, The Loved One.