Summary and book reviews of American Dream Machine by Matthew Specktor

American Dream Machine

by Matthew Specktor

American Dream Machine by Matthew Specktor
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

American Dream Machine is the story of two talent agents and their three troubled boys, heirs to Hollywood royalty. It's a sweeping narrative about fathers and sons, the movie business, and the sundry sea changes that have shaped Hollywood and, by extension, American life.

Beau Rosenwald, overweight, not particularly handsome, and improbably charismatic, arrives in Los Angles in 1962 with nothing but an ill-fitting suit and a pair of expensive brogues. By the late 1970s he has helped found the most successful agency in Hollywood. Through the eyes of his son, we watch Beau and his partner go to war, waging a seismic battle that redraws the lines of an entire industry.

We watch Beau rise and fall and rise again, in accordance with the cultural transformations that dictate the fickle world of movies. We watch Beau's partner, the enigmatic and cerebral Williams Farquarsen, struggle to contain himself, to control his impulses and consolidate his power. And we watch two generations of men fumble and thrive across the LA landscape, learning for themselves the shadows and costs exacted by success and failure.

Mammalian, funny, and filled with characters both vital and profound, American Dream Machine is a piercing interrogation of the role, nourishing, as well as destructive, that illusion plays in all our lives.

PROLOGUE

They closed down the Hamlet on Sunset last night. That old plush palace, place where Dean Martin drank himself to death on Tuesdays, where my father and his friends once had lunch every weekend and the maître d' was quick to kiss my old man's hand. Like the one they called "the other Hamlet" in Beverly Hills, and "the regular other Hamlet" in Century City . . . all of these places now long gone. Hollywood is like that. Its forever institutions, so quick to disappear. The Hamburger Hamlet, the one on Sunset, was in a class by itself. Red leather upholstery, dark booths, the carpets patterned with a radical and problematic intaglio. Big windows flung sun in front, but farther in the interior was dim, swampy. Waitresses patrolled the tables, the recessed depths where my father's clients, men like Stacy Keach and Arthur Hill, sat away from human scrutiny. Most often their hair was mussed and they were weeping. Or they were exultant, flashing lavish smiles and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

American Dream Machine beautifully illustrates not just how the sun is setting on the myth of self-made individualism but also how, with their feet planted on unsteady ground, the young now have no guaranteed formulas for success. "Life was more like the movies than anyone cared to admit. It was predicated on them, far more than vice versa," Nate says. Fair enough. Except, as he very well knows, not all movies have fairytale endings.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (838 words).

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Media Reviews

LA Review of Books

American Dream Machine is written with a great ear for a sentence and a funny line ("You think it's easier to sell actors than shoes?"). More importantly, it evokes a world with casual ease and unexpected tenderness, recalling and referencing lots of other fiction (both Hollywood and non) while contriving to establish its own unique authority.

Publishers Weekly

While Specktor, a film executive and the founding editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, does not quite achieve an epic tone, his novel of the seedy guardians of the mythic American dream succeeds in showing just how unpleasant the film industry can be.

The Telegraph (UK)

Specktor’s great achievement is to make familiar territory original, the Hollywood novel born anew. It’s bold, weird and unforgettable, as startling as a poke in the eye.

Author Blurb Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine and The Devil in Silver
American Dream Machine is grand, complex, lush, intelligent and lively, funny as hell and generous in ways you don’t often find. It’s also a strikingly original portrait of Los Angeles.

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Beyond the Book

Acting Talent Agencies

A talent agency is an organization that represents talent – actors, musicians, writers etc – and pitches their clients' talents to appropriate organizations. For example, a Hollywood talent agency will pitch or plug a particular actor on roles for upcoming movie projects. Talent agencies work closely with production companies and casting directors. In Hollywood, talent agents are certified by the Screen Actors Guild and follow certain professional rules of conduct. This includes the setting of fees. Most talent agents will take 10% of an actor's earnings from a role. The talent agent helps in pitching the actor and procuring auditions although the final results are dependent on the actor alone.

Angelina JolieWhile talent agencies in ...

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