Wednesday, June 22, 2016


If the rest of this book were as fantastic as the first 50 pages, I would give it 5 stars.  David Zimmer has lost his entire family in a plane crash, and, after seeing a TV film clip of silent film star Hector Mann, he embarks on a quest.  David travels, with the help of Xanax, to museums around the world to view all of Mann’s silent films as research for a book.  Mann mysteriously disappeared shortly after the making of his last movie, but, after the book is published, David receives a letter indicating that Mann is alive.  Thus begins a new episode in David’s mission to uncover the truth about Hector Mann.  The downside is that I felt very detached from all of the characters in this book, including David, whose grief drives him to several suicide attempts.  Writing and some good old-fashioned slapstick comedy are his salvation.  The author’s vivid descriptions of Mann’s movies, two of them in particular, are the reason that the first part of the book is so good.  The plots are magical, sophisticated, and supremely clever, and I want to see those movies!  I imagined Mann, with his moustache and white suit, to resemble David Niven.  Zimmer and Mann both suffer tragic losses, but the silent movie plots are pure delight, and they save a dark novel from becoming maudlin.  I am also wondering to what degree, if any, this book inspired the movie The Artist.  John Goodman plays a man named Al Zimmer in the movie, so I figure his name is a nod to the narrator of this book.  There’s also at least one more similarity between the novel and the movie:  both are about a silent film star with a foreign accent, which makes the transition to talkies problematic.  In this book, the contrast between the man, “Mann,” and his enchanting film work is quite a feat for the author, but the real feat is the immense imagination that went into the construction of the movie plots and conveying those plots to the reader so brilliantly.

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