Politics, Desire, and the Hollywood Novel

Politics, Desire, and the Hollywood Novel

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198 pages, 6 x 9 inches
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"A convincing and compelling account of a genuinely interesting cultural phenomenon, the Hollywood novel, that demands more critical attention than it has received. Not only does Politics, Desire, and the Hollywood Novel promise to fill an important gap in our knowledge, it also offers a series of intellectually challenging, psychoanalytically informed readings of a relatively underappreciated body of work."—William Solomon, author, Literature, Amusement, and Technology in the Great Depression

"Chip Rhodes's close readings of six novels concerning Hollywood are informed by critical intelligence, close attention to detail, quickness of mind, a generous use of literary theory and literary history, and a charming ease and grace. He makes a modest claim—'to tell a story'—but he achieves important insights. By 2008 nearly 500 Hollywood novels have been published; Rhodes's work on the mastery evinced by a few is also a good guide and introduction to the drift of them all."—Jay Martin, author, Nathanael West: The Art of His Life and psychoanalyst in private practice in California

The story of what happens when a serious writer goes to Hollywood has become a cliché: the writer is paid well but underappreciated, treated like a factory worker, and forced to write bad, formulaic movies. Most fail, become cynical, drink to excess, and at some point write a bitter novel that attacks the film industry in the name of high art. Like many too familiar stories, this one neither holds up to the facts nor helps us understand Hollywood novels. Instead, Chip Rhodes argues, these novels tell us a great deal about the ways that Hollywood has shaped both the American political landscape and American definitions of romance and desire.

Rhodes considers how novels about the film industry changed between the studio era of the 1930s and 1940s and the era of deregulated film making that has existed since the 1960s. He asserts that Americans are now driven by cultural, rather than class, differences and that our mainstream notion of love has gone from repressed desire to "abnormal desire" to, finally, strictly business.
Politics, Desire, and the Hollywood Novel pays close attention to six authors—Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Budd Schulberg, Joan Didion, Bruce Wagner, and Elmore Leonard—who have toiled in the film industry and written to tell about it. More specifically, Rhodes considers both screenplays and novels with an eye toward the different formulations of sexuality, art, and ultimately political action that exist in these two kinds of storytelling.

Table of contents: 

Theorizing the Hollywood Novel: Aesthetics, Psychoanalytic Desire, and History

Part One: The Studio Era

1. Nathanael West: Desire, Art, and Cynicism
2. Budd Schulberg: Unionism and Sadomasochism
3. Raymond Chandler: Individualism and Populism

Part Two: The New Hollywood

4. Joan Didion: Gender and Lacanian Tragedy
5. Bruce Wagner: Double Consciousness and the Death of Desire
6. Elmore Leonard: Realism after the End of Ideology