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Dillinger in Hollywood: New and Selected Short Storiesby John Sayles
Synopses & Reviews
Before John Sayles was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and celebrated independent filmmaker, he was a National Book Award-nominated writer of fiction. Now John Sayles has written his first short story collection in twenty-five years.
The keynote story — "Dillinger in Hollywood" — is populated by leftovers from the Golden Age of Hollywood who live in a nursing home catering for "below-the-line" talent — dancers, stunt doubles, horse wranglers, stand-ins, studio drivers — who now wait for death and dementia, playing cards, breaking hips, busting ribs, and telling tall tales of days gone by. During one hot summer, Casey, a long-term resident, confesses that he "used to be John Dillinger. In the flesh." The supposed John Dillinger, a legendary outlaw who had been popped at the Biograph Theater, was simply a "stand-in."
Sayles's stories, like his movies, are panoramic in scope, weaving together disparate elements, where the past has a powerful claim on the present, where the characters are down on their luck, struggling to make ends meet. Ultimately, Dillinger in Hollywood showcases Sayles's uncanny ear for language, his skill at crafting character, humor and atmosphere, and shows why he is the winner of the John Steinbeck Award, the O. Henry Award, and others.
"Though Sayles is best known as the writer/director of acclaimed independent films (Lone Star; Matewan), he's also an accomplished novelist (Union Dues; Los Gusanos). In this engaging collection, his first in 25 years, he reminds us of his skill in shorter forms. In the title story, Son Bishop, an ex-horse wrangler and stunt man, works at a nursing home populated by the relics of Hollywood's Golden Age, one of whom claims he 'used to be' John Dillinger. 'Your geriatrics and horses hold a lot in common,' Bishop muses. '[T]hey're high-strung, they bite and kick sometimes, and they're none of them too big on bowel control.' The more substantial and subtle 'Casa de Los Babys' (the genesis of his eponymous movie?) follows a group of American women waiting to adopt babies in a Latin American city, as well as a maid at their crumbling hotel, a nurse at the orphanage and a young homeless boy who would like nothing better than to nab the women's wallets. 'The Halfway Diner' finds a company of women riding a weekly bus to visit their husbands in jail and touchingly describes their esprit de corps ('The thing is,' the narrator says, 'we're all of us doing time'). Humor leavens the social conscience in many of these tales, and Sayles's exceptional dialogue is reason enough to appreciate this collection. Agent, Anthony Arnove. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Ten stories from the legendary Hollywood director: some good, some passable, all worthwhile....Sayles proves better over the short stretch, with his punchy dialogue and socially astute ear, while occasionally lacking the story drive to carry him through longer passages." Kirkus Reviews
"Sayles has a winning way with the short story." The New York Times
John Sayles's stories, like his movies, are panoramic in scope and richly textured. His beautifully drawn characters are often down on their luck, struggling to make ends meet in circumstances where the past has a powerful influence on the present. Dillinger in Hollywood showcases Sayles's uncanny ear for language, his skill at crafting character, humor and atmosphere, and his ability, as Barbara Kingsolver has written, "to pull apart our most cherished myths and icons and see what they're really made of."
Before becoming an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and celebrated independent filmmaker, Sayles was a National Book Award-nominated writer of fiction. Now he presents his first short story collection in 25 years.
About the Author
John Sayles is the writer and director of acclaimed independent films, including Return of the Secaucus Seven; Baby, It's You; The Brother from Another Planet; Matewan; and Passion Fish. His most recent film, Silver City, is a timely satire for the election year. Twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Sayles has also written novels, including Los Gusanos.
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