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The Perfect American

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Review-A-Day

"I've read four novels recently that announce upfront that they're 'fictionalized biographies.'...The Perfect American is a perfect example of this unsettling genre. Everything about it is a house of mirrors....Proceed with caution into Jungkland. There are some wonderful rides here, and it's often impossible to distinguish the factual from the fantastic, but the insights are true — and troubling." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Perfect American is a fictionalized biography of Walt Disney's final months, as narrated by Wilhelm Dantine, an Austrian cartoonist who worked for Disney in the 40s and 50s, illustrating sequences for Sleeping Beauty. It is also the story of Dantine himself, who desperately seeks Disney's recognition at the risk of his own ruin. Peter Stephen Jungk has infused a new energy into the genre of fictionalized biography.

Dantine, imbued with a sense of European superiority, first refuses to submit to Disney's rule, but is nevertheless fascinated by the childlike omnipotence of a man who identifies with Mickey Mouse. We discover Walt's delusions of immortality via cryogenic preservation, his tirades alongside his Abraham Lincoln talking robot, his invitation of Nikita Khruschev to Disneyland once he learns that the Soviet Premier wants to visit the park, his utopian visions of his EPCOT project, and his backyard labyrinth of toy trains. Yet, if at first Walt seems to have a magic wand granting him all his wishes, we soon discover that he is as tortured as the man who tells his story.

After Disney refuses to acknowledge Dantine's self-professed talent and hard work, he fires the frustrated cartoonist for writing, along with other staff members, an anonymous polemical memorandum regarding Disney's jingoistic politics. Years later, in the late 60s, still deeply wounded by his dismissal, Dantine follows Disney's trail to capture what makes Walt tick. Dantine wants us to grasp what it is like to live and breathe around the man who thought of himself as "more famous than Santo Claus."

Walt's wife Lillian, his confidante and perhaps his mistress Hazel, his brother Roy, his children Diane andSharon, his close and ill-treated collaborators, and famous figures such as Peter Ustinov, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Geraldine Chaplin, all contribute to the novel's animation, its feel for the life of the Disney world. This deeply researched work not only provides interesting interpretations of what made Walt Disney a central figure in American popular culture, but also explores the complex expectations of gifted European immigrants who came to the United States after World War II with preconceived notions of how to achieve the American dream.

Review:

"More like fictionalized biography than straight fiction, Jungk's book is a fine achievement....Sharp as a razor: The Perfect American says more about Disney, and the seduction of megalomania, than a stack of biographies." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"At turns fascinating and comical, Jungk's novel hews so closely to well-researched biographical data that the line between fact and fiction often becomes blurred." Booklist

Review:

"[Jungk's] inventions, powerful and darkly amusing as they often are, sit uneasily atop his well-researched facts." Los Angeles Times

Synopsis:

The Perfect American is a fictionalized biography of Walt Disney's final months, as narrated by Wilhelm Dantine, an Austrian cartoonist who worked for Disney in the 40s and 50s, illustrating sequences for Sleeping Beauty. It is also the story of Dantine himself, who desperately seeks Disney's recognition at the risk of his own ruin.

Peter Stephan Jungk has infused a new energy into the genre of fictionalized biography. Dantine, imbued with a sense of European superiority, first refuses to submit to Disney's rule, but is nevertheless fascinated by the childlike omnipotence of a man who identifies with Mickey Mouse. We discover Walt's delusions of immortality via cryogenic preservation, his tirades alongside his Abraham Lincoln talking robot, his invitation of Nikita Khruschev to Disneyland once he learns that the Soviet Premier wants to visit the park, his utopian visions of his EPCOT project, and his backyard labyrinth of toy trains. Yet, if at first Walt seems to have a magic wand granting him all his wishes, we soon discover that he is as tortured as the man who tells his story.

After Disney refuses to acknowledge Dantine's self-professed talent and hard work, he fires the frustrated cartoonist for writing, along with other staff members, an anonymous polemical memorandum regarding Disney's jingoistic politics. Years later, in the late 60s, still deeply wounded by his dismissal, Dantine follows Disney's trail to capture what makes Walt tick. Dantine wants us to grasp what it is like to live and breathe around the man who thought of himself as more famous than Santa Claus. Walt's wife Lillian, his confidante and perhaps his mistress Hazel, his brother Roy, his children Diane and Sharon, his close and ill-treated collaborators, and famous figures such as Peter Ustinov, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Geraldine Chaplin, all contribute to the novel's animation, its feel for the life of the Disney world.

This deeply researched work not only provides interesting interpretations of what made Walt Disney a central figure in American popular culture, but also explores the complex expectations of gifted European immigrants who came to the United States after World War II with preconceived notions of how to achieve the American dream.

About the Author

Peter Stephan Jungk

Peter Stephan Jungk was born in Los Angeles, raised in several European cities, and now lives in Paris. A former screenwriting fellow of the American Film Institute, he is the author of eight books, including the acclaimed biography Franz Werfel: A Life from Prague to Hollywood (1990) and the novels Tigor (Handsel Books, 2004), a finalist for the British Foreign Book Award, and The Perfect American (Handsel Books, 2004), a fictional biography of Walt Disney's last months, which is being turned into an opera by Philip Glass for the New York City Opera.

Michael Hofmann

Michael Hofmann has translated Bertolt Brecht, Joseph Roth, Patrick S, Herta Mueller, and Franz Kafka. He won the Translators' Association's Schlegel-Tieck Prize twice in 1988 for his adaptation of The Double Bass by Patrick S (1987), and in 1993 for his rendering of Wolfgang Koeppen's Death in Rome (1992). In 1999 he won the PEN/Book of the Month Club Translation Prize for The String of Pearls. His translation of his father's novel The Film Explainer, by Gert Hofmann, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 1995. He has written and translated more than 35 books, winning eight awards for his translations and his poetry.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781590511152
Translator:
Hofmann, Michael
Publisher:
Other Press (NY)
Translator:
Hofmann, Michael
Author:
Jungk, Peter Stephan
Author:
Hofmann, Michael
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Series Volume:
3
Publication Date:
20040431
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
9.24x6.26x.88 in. .95 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Biographical

The Perfect American Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 192 pages Handsel Books - English 9781590511152 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "I've read four novels recently that announce upfront that they're 'fictionalized biographies.'...The Perfect American is a perfect example of this unsettling genre. Everything about it is a house of mirrors....Proceed with caution into Jungkland. There are some wonderful rides here, and it's often impossible to distinguish the factual from the fantastic, but the insights are true — and troubling." (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Review" by , "More like fictionalized biography than straight fiction, Jungk's book is a fine achievement....Sharp as a razor: The Perfect American says more about Disney, and the seduction of megalomania, than a stack of biographies."
"Review" by , "At turns fascinating and comical, Jungk's novel hews so closely to well-researched biographical data that the line between fact and fiction often becomes blurred."
"Review" by , "[Jungk's] inventions, powerful and darkly amusing as they often are, sit uneasily atop his well-researched facts."
"Synopsis" by , The Perfect American is a fictionalized biography of Walt Disney's final months, as narrated by Wilhelm Dantine, an Austrian cartoonist who worked for Disney in the 40s and 50s, illustrating sequences for Sleeping Beauty. It is also the story of Dantine himself, who desperately seeks Disney's recognition at the risk of his own ruin.

Peter Stephan Jungk has infused a new energy into the genre of fictionalized biography. Dantine, imbued with a sense of European superiority, first refuses to submit to Disney's rule, but is nevertheless fascinated by the childlike omnipotence of a man who identifies with Mickey Mouse. We discover Walt's delusions of immortality via cryogenic preservation, his tirades alongside his Abraham Lincoln talking robot, his invitation of Nikita Khruschev to Disneyland once he learns that the Soviet Premier wants to visit the park, his utopian visions of his EPCOT project, and his backyard labyrinth of toy trains. Yet, if at first Walt seems to have a magic wand granting him all his wishes, we soon discover that he is as tortured as the man who tells his story.

After Disney refuses to acknowledge Dantine's self-professed talent and hard work, he fires the frustrated cartoonist for writing, along with other staff members, an anonymous polemical memorandum regarding Disney's jingoistic politics. Years later, in the late 60s, still deeply wounded by his dismissal, Dantine follows Disney's trail to capture what makes Walt tick. Dantine wants us to grasp what it is like to live and breathe around the man who thought of himself as more famous than Santa Claus. Walt's wife Lillian, his confidante and perhaps his mistress Hazel, his brother Roy, his children Diane and Sharon, his close and ill-treated collaborators, and famous figures such as Peter Ustinov, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Geraldine Chaplin, all contribute to the novel's animation, its feel for the life of the Disney world.

This deeply researched work not only provides interesting interpretations of what made Walt Disney a central figure in American popular culture, but also explores the complex expectations of gifted European immigrants who came to the United States after World War II with preconceived notions of how to achieve the American dream.

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