Yesterday I wrote about all the Hollywood novels floating around, how we seemed to be doing events with half of the new ones, and how I'd been obsessing about doing a film novel table for months. It's true--every great author seems to tackle Hollywood eventually, from Vidal to Fitzgerald to Bukowski. It's probably because many writers are tempted to try their hand at screenwriting, and come away from the experience with a lot of fodder for future novels.
I'm not sure why Sneed was drawn to the genre; I'm hoping to learn more when her new book, Little Known Facts (Bloomsbury) is such a success that every interviewer is drawing out the story behind the story. I do know that Sneed was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times book prize for her short story collection, Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry. She's not from California though; Sneed was raised in Green Bay. She read at the store for the collection, accompanying National Book Award winner Jamie Gordon. I wanted to read the stories, but the print was so small in the original collection. They were reprinted recently with bigger type!
Little Known Facts is about fifty-something film star Renn Ivins, a successful actor who has also been able to make a name for himself with directing. He's left two ex wives in his wake, one from before he made it big, who is now a doctor, and a second, a troubled former caterer, who has penned a tell-all memoir. He's also got two children, a daughter in medical residency and a son who simply doesn't know what to do with his life. But just because his daughter seems to have a better moral compass than dad, doesn't mean that she can't also lose her way a bit.
So Renn's shooting this film in New Orleans (can I also put this on a New Orleans table? We're hosting Sarah Carr's Hope Against Hope on March 19, from the same publisher, no less) with two young stars, and he's asked his son to come out and assist. But aimless Will has trouble following directions, particularly as there's this weird dynamic between him and his dad. And it doesn't help that he's attracted to Elise, the young star (with her own family troubles) and it looks like his dad might be as well, even though Will has a perfectly good relationship with his girlfriend (only he doesn't know that she also had some father/son issues).
The novel's perspective jumps from character to character, which you know I love. Though there's a clear narrative arc to the novel, some of the chapters almost work like self-contained stories, which is not surprising, because as you've already surmised, Sneed is a darn good short story writer. I so enjoyed this novel, and at some points, it was more than that, I was swooning. There was this way that Sneed just captured moments. I think I used the term "sparkling prose" when I wrote this up, and I meant "sparkling." Not flowery or anything, just pure and moving.
We are very, very, very fortunate that Christine Sneed lives in Chicago (Evanston, even closer) and was not just amenable but enthusiastic about coming up to appear at Boswell. We asked if she would like to read with someone else, and she immediately suggested Mike Magnuson, a Wisconsin writer whose Bike Tribes had a nice sale at Boswell. He's going to probably read from his fiction, trying to keep more in the spirit of the evening, but I told him that we're up for anything. I've been told that Southern California has bike lanes too. Sneed and Magnuson are appearing on Thursday, March 28, 7 pm.
New Books! 1/27/15
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