You see, I have this thing for historical novels, a real love for the way an author can weave history into a fascinating tale, using names and places from so long ago. Unfortunately for any poor soul wishing to read this "novel" way too many names of people you probably haven't even heard of get thrown into the mix. In the end, this "novel" reads like nothing more than a history book that I would've been forced to read in high school.
Oh, where to start! I guess I'll start with how many names get dropped throughout the novel, most of them occurring within the first hundred pages. Sure, there are names that are easily recognizable, like Woodrow Wilson, W.G. Harding, the Roosevelts, and so on. But then there are many many other obscure names muddying the storytelling. To be quite honest, I wasn't sure who to follow, who held the most importance in this wordy storyline. I'm going to say three people pop out because they are followed the closest when it comes to POV: Jess, Caroline, and Burden.
Next up is the fact that the book is called Hollywood, but it takes over a hundred pages to even get to Hollywood. Vidal spends more time mucking through the halls of Congress and the White House than he ever spends on the vivid transformation taking place on the West Coast. More than anything, I found this to be completely frustrating. I picked out the book because the main focus described would be Hollywood and those early golden years when everything in the film business was beginning to take shape. Instead of a larger view of what was taking place out in California, Vidal focuses on Caroline's character, how she gets roped into making "photo-plays", and then we're right back in Washington D.C. listening to the banal history concerning Wilson and WWI. If you have no interest in Wilson's WWI policies or all the names getting dropped for the 1920 presidential election, then I suggest you find your historical novel fix elsewhere.
Vidal's writing just gets tedious. I'd always wanted to read one of his novels, but now I feel like I'm kicking myself over having chosen this book. History is important, but when a storyteller can't create a story beyond historical facts then he's only going to lose his audience. In the end, this is how I felt every time I picked up to read Hollywood:
|Yep, it was that boring!|