It is fast, with an odd-ball tumbling quality to the writing that is more akin to watching an indie flick rather than reading a book. Matthew Specktor, is senior editor and founding member of the famed Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB). He comes with some serious Hollywood credentials and the book’s insider-take opens up a part of Los Angeles that is more “Mad Men” than struggling “Village”.
The agents are mean, over the top, living in a drug-infused world where the work relationships are just progressions of personal equations. Into this arena arrives big, fat, dramatic Beau Rosenwald.
It is the 1960s. Films are cheesy and agencies hold the key to making star careers. For a man with low self-esteem but the bluster of a showman, can Rosenwald survive?
He goes on to establish the most successful agency in Hollywood, called the American Dream Machine. He is living it, he is the American dream. Along the way, he collects mistresses, wives and children.
In a way the book is almost expected in the manner people evolve but what sets it apart is the detailing and the building of characters — which almost feels like a storyboard for a film. It brings to life a time and mindset that shaped one of the world’s most influential film industries.
There is tragedy and success — you get the feeling that quite often privilege begets opportunity but somewhere there has to be that fountainhead.
“American Dream Machine” spans several decades and numerous dark secrets, including violence against gays and the lives of men who fuelled dreams across the world with their films.
The book is well written and evaluates the impact men have on the lives of their sons. Not a Hemingway but it definitely holds. I would recommend the book as a must-read and Specktor as an author to watch out for.
American Dream Machine
By Matthew Specktor,
Tin House Books, 464 pages, $25.95