Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times Book Review
once compared Bruce Wagner's prose to "some unholy combination of Rick Moody, Anthony Lane and the Page Six
gossip columnist Richard Johnson." Now 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.
The Chrysanthemum Palace introduces Bertie Krohn, the only child of Perry Krohn, creator of TV's longest running space opera, Starwatch: The Navigators (which counts Jennifer Aniston and Donald Rumsfeld among its obsessed fans). Bertie recounts the story of the last months in the lives of his two companions: Thad Michelet, author, actor, and son of a literary titan; and Clea Freemantle, emotionally fragile daughter of a legendary movie star, long dead. Scions of entertainment greatness, they call themselves the Three Musketeers; between them, as Bertie says, "there was more than enough material to bring psychoanalysis back into vogue." As the incestuous clique attempts to scale the peaks claimed by their sacred yet monstrous parents over a two-week filming of a Starwatch episode in which they costar, Bertie scrupulously chronicles their highs and lows as well as their futile struggles against the ravenous, narcissistic, and addicted Hollywood that claims them.
Convulsive and poignant, The Chrysanthemum Palace is a tragic tale of friendship and fate writ large a tour de force by a major writer whose narrative delivers devastating emotional impact.
"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
"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
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.
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.