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The Chrysanthemum Palace: A Novelby Bruce Wagner
"The Chrysanthemum Palace has elements of trash and satire, but it happily avoids being too much of either. And it isn't needlessly elegiac, either. This is a very up to the moment Hollywood, where people pitch shows to HBO about themselves and IMDB each other, where Sharon Stone can make a cameo. But for all the name dropping and narcissism, all the pill popping and chaining of Diet Cokes, Wagner evokes his la-la land with a curiously human touch." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
Bertie Krohn, only child of Perry Krohn — creator of TV's longest running space opera, Starwatch: The Navigators — recounts the story of the last months in the lives of his two friends: Thad Michelet, author, actor, and son of a literary titan; and Clea Freemantle, emotionally fragile daughter of a legendary movie star. Scions of entertainment greatness, they call themselves the Three Musketeers. As the incestuous clique attempts to scale the peaks claimed by their sacred yet monstrous parents during the filming of a Starwatch episode, Bertie scrupulously chronicles their futile struggles against the ravenous, narcissistic, and addicted Hollywood that claims them.
"In his Cellular Trilogy, novelist Wagner gleefully excoriated Hollywood vanity and pretense. Obviously his hunger for butchering Tinseltown's sacred cows was not sated because in his latest work he continues to carve them up. His uproarious new satire focuses on a trio of psychologically and emotionally fragile actors, each of whom carries the added baggage of a very famous and successful parent. The story is told from the perspective of Bertie Krohn, the soon-to-be-middle-aged son of the 'creator-producer in perpetua of TV's longest-running syndicated space opera, Starwatch: The Navigators.' After several attempts to make it on his own artistically, Bertie succumbs to nepotism and joins the cast of Starwatch. The book revolves around his interactions with two other actors who are appearing on the series. The first is Clea Fremantle, his childhood crush and the daughter of a 'legendary film actress.' The other is Thad Michelet, the 50-something son of a universally revered, award-winning author. Much as Jeffrey Frank did in his excellent novel The Columnist, Wagner crafts a savage meditation on contemporary self-involvement — his characters are vacuous, name-dropping black holes of self-absorption. The writing itself is wonderfully bad, as Bertie the hapless hack attempts to chronicle his melodramatic tale with 25-cent words ('commodious,' 'numinous,' etc.) and wickedly overwrought metaphors ('Thad's hungry eyes surveyed the topography of human detail unfolding before him like a jet devouring a runway during takeoff'). It's a short, sharp book that puts a dagger right in the heart of Hollywood. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Although Wagner is smart enough to keep the enjoyably soapy story short, the inevitable high-drama conclusion does prompt some longing for the apocalyptic surrealism of his earlier fiction. Smart, high-gloss slur of fame, drugs and the fateful weight of family." Kirkus Reviews
"Few writers capture the egregious emptiness of Hollywood as well as Wagner....Though his plot is often convoluted and laborious, Wagner's satire is at once biting and broad based, his wit both razor sharp and slyly subtle." Booklist
"A succulent tale of mythic generational battle, where the stakes are high, costing not less than everything." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"[A] very funny book. The scenes on the set are marvelous....If The Great Gatsby were set in contemporary Hollywood, it might look a lot like The Chrysanthemum Palace." Carolyn See, The Washington Post
"A cross between People magazine and E! True Hollywood Story, with just a hint of F. Scott Fitzgerald....It is a valiant attempt, but ultimately, alas, the unsympathetic characters and wavering plot focus make Chrysanthemum Palace a bit more Rich Girls than The Great Gatsby." San Francisco Chronicle
"Mr. Wagner demonstrates...that he can do the lyrical and tender with as much panache as the outrageous and corrosive. Chrysanthemum isn't a major work like [I'll Let You Go]...but it showcases the author's kinder, gentler side while attesting to his ever wicked eye for hypocrisy and self-deception." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"This slender novel lacks the kaleidoscopic frenzy of Wagner's 'cell-phone' trilogy....Still, his ability to eviscerate the absurdities of Hollywood, while occasionally hinting at its basic humanity, remains undiminished." The New Yorker
This quintessential L.A. storyteller spins his most ambitious novel to date: a philosophical, heartbreaking tale of three friends lost in a California dream gone mad.
Bertie Krohn, only child of Perry Krohn — creator of TV's longest running space opera, Starwatch: The Navigators — recounts the story of the last months in the lives of his two friends: Thad Michelet, author, actor, and son of a literary titan; and Clea
Freemantle, emotionally fragile daughter of a legendary movie star. Scions of entertainment greatness, they call themselves the Three Musketeers. As the incestuous clique attempts to scale the peaks claimed by their sacred yet monstrous parents during the filming of a Starwatch episode, Bertie scrupulously chronicles their futile struggles against the ravenous, narcissistic, and addicted Hollywood that claims them.
About the Author
Bruce Wagner is the author of Force Majeure, I'm Losing You, I'll Let You Go, which was nominated for the PEN USA fiction award, and Still Holding.
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