Picks and Pans Review: West of Sunset
by Dirk Bogarde
In this kind of Hollywood novel, characters say such things as: "Intellect! I adore intellect because I have so little myself," or "If these people don't keep talking they might be forced to think. And that frightens them." While it's stilted in the extreme, things do happen. The main plot concerns a group of transplanted Britons: There are a beautiful boutique owner whose poet husband dies in a car crash, a novelist in L.A. for just a week to discuss his screenplay with a studio chief, a guest professor and his goddaughter on a visit. Among the non-Brit characters are a Polish filmmaker who wants to make a documentary in Brazil, a famous female entertainer who wears a lot of wigs and an old Russian countess who spies for the KGB. Gradually it is revealed that the poet had a hopeless cocaine habit and was fond of torturing small girls. If anyone is interested in seeing Hollywood as it's viewed—or fantasized about—by a supercilious British actor, then he may find this novel fascinating. Bogarde, the actor who starred in such films as Death in Venice and The Servant, has written two other novels and three volumes of autobiography. In this book, a scene where the novelist has breakfast with the studio chief and his wife while President Reagan is being inaugurated on TV is outrageous and nastily funny. The rest of the novel is a mess, and the ending reads like something tagged onto the last act of an old-fashioned stage melodrama. (Viking, $16.95)
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