Monday, January 28, 2008

Welcome to The Age of Dreaming

One of the great pleasures of reading is discovering a stunning writer totally unknown to you. It's very much like the romantic experience: your first thought is "Where has this person been all my life?"

Nina. I've just met a writer named Nina. Nina Revoyr. Akashic, that wonderful class act run by rock musician Johnny Temple, has sent me a copy of a novel by her called THE AGE OF DREAMING. Not only is it a tremendously intriguing book about a fascinating period -- the 1910s and 20s, the golden age of silent movies -- but it's also a superb work of publishing art: french covers (the fold-over sort that provide instant, unloseable bookmarks), an evocative cover photo, all the trimmings.

Jun Nakayama was a Japanese actor who became a movie star in Hollywood. He might remind you of Sessue Hayakawa, who appeared as the terrifying prison camp commander in David Lean's "The Bridge Over the River Kwai." Into this mix, Revoyr ladles recognizable chunks from a genuine Hollywood mystery -- the murder of a famous director which, although it was never officially solved, was thought to be the work of the mad mother of a very young and emotionally fragile Southern actress.

Jun starts his story in 1964, 42 years after the murder and his abrupt retirement from the film world. Thanks to wise investments, he now lives in comfort, thinking only occasionally about the past. But when a journalist and budding screenwriter calls to ask for an interview, Jun is set off on a truly amazing voyage of self-discovery. Driving his vintage Packard through neighborhoods now unimaginably changed to him, he contacts old associates from the period. A strong undercurrent of ethnic racial prejudice runs through the book: a scene where Jun takes some Japanese associates to a golf driving range in Westwood only to discover that a new rule bars "Orientals and Negroes" from playing there could break your heart.

Revoyr, who is half Japanese herself (her mother was Japanese; her father Polish-American) seems to get it all right. She also is a master of her art who has been compared by advance readers to Kazuo Ishiguro (author of "Remains of the Day") and Nabokov. Enter her dream world. You won't regret it.

No comments: