Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"American Dream Machine"

Matthew Specktor is the author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book about the motion picture The Sting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, The Believer, Tin House, Black Clock, and, among other publications. He is a senior editor and founding member of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Specktor applied the Page 69 Test to American Dream Machine and reported the following:
Page 69 of American Dream Machine catches its characters in mid-argument. Beau Rosenwald, the novel's protagonist, is going up against his boss, a natty, closeted master of Old Hollywood named Sam Smiligan. It's 1968, and everything is coming apart at the seams. The argument is about whether Beau's client, the director Stanley Donen, should do a movie called Staircase (which Donen actually did direct in real life) or a hipper, shaggier film called Mellow Yellow, a sort of deadpan comedy in the vein of Blake Edwards' The Party. Beau, who represents the new Hollywood, is advocating for the latter. He will lose this argument, and within a page or three will lose any number of other things: temper, dignity, perhaps a button or two on his fly. He's about to let it all hang out.

"Why don't you get a job for those circus geeks you represent," Sam sneers at Beau, speaking of the sorts of actors, the Harry Dean Stanton types, represented by the younger agent, naturally unintelligible to one more inclined to Cary Grant and Rock Hudson.
Because they don't need me, Beau wanted to say. Because that's the way the business is turning. It's men like Stanley, your clients, who are in danger of extinction.
American Dream Machine is filled with such collisions. The book is a series of such clashes, really, a sequence of battles in which the irresistible force of one person's imagination comes up against the immovable object of another's. It how films are made, companies are built, and really, if you look at the tectonic plates of our country's political life--to say nothing of our own, personal, private ones--it's easy to see a scene like this as representative of all kinds of things. Besides which, there is the question of extinction, of obsolescence, which Beau himself will come up against later in the novel. We all do. Any shapely novel, I think, contains itself in microcosm over and over again. This one does, at least.
Learn more about the book and author at Matthew Specktor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue