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The Age of Dreaming Paperback – April 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In her cunning follow-up to Southland, Revoyr returns to L.A., this time to when Sunset Boulevard was just a dirt road and Jun Nakayama was a famous silent film star. Prompted by a journalist's visit in 1964, 42 years after he left the screen for good, Jun revisits his youth in Japan, his discovery at L.A.'s Little Tokyo Theater, his rise to stardom and the scandalous events that led to his abrupt retreat from public life. Mixing real people with fictional characters like principled Japanese actress Hanako Minatoya, troubled starlet Elizabeth Banks (not the one in Seabiscuit), ingénue Nora Minton Niles and dashing director Ashley Bennett Tyler, Revoyr creates a vibrant portrait of a time when the film studio was a place of serious work. As Jun reveals the secrets he has kept for decades, he uncovers new twists in his own history and comes to terms with other painful experiences he has repressed, namely his loneliness and the effects of the anti-Japanese racism he mistakenly believed he could overcome by being as agreeable—and American—as possible. The occasional awkward transition between present and past notwithstanding, Revoyr beautifully invokes Jun's self-deceptions and his growing self-awareness. It's an enormously satisfying novel. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* Few subjects generate clichés more readily than Hollywood, yet Revoyr has steered clear of every stereotype while perfectly capturing the promise of classic movie-star dreams. As in her award-winning Southland (2003), Revoyr works in two time frames to illuminate the dilemmas confronting people of Japanese descent in L.A. In this virtuoso first-person narration, the fruit of Chandler and Fitzgerald, Jun Nakayama, a box-office sensation during the silent-film era and now a recluse, is contacted in 1964 by an eager young journalist. A man so cut off from the present day he still drives a Packard and wears clothes considered elegant decades ago, Jun is initially reluctant to talk about his past but is soon swept away on a tide of vivid memories. Writing with exquisite subtlety and evoking noirish suspense, Revoyr brings early, still beautifully rural Hollywood back to life in all its brash excitement through Jun’s cautious eyes. As he recalls the deep joy of acting, his heartbreaking love affairs with pioneering women, the unsolved murder of his director, and the racism that shadowed his every move, Revoyr questions our notion of success and lays bare the thorny paradoxes fame still poses for people of color. Rare indeed is a novel this deeply pleasurable and significant. --Donna Seaman
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is told in the first person by Jun Nakayama, and elderly and successful man who had been a film star in the pre-sound era of Hollywood. A chance encounter with a young reporter doing a story about a revival theater opening in LA leads him to retrace many of his steps in the movie business.
Revoyr give her narrator a pitch-perfect voice. Old, at times vain, at times proud, but gentle, satisfied, and comfortable with his life and career. The way various characters react to his new interest in his own past speaks as at least as much about himself as it does about other people.
The book also includes a compelling murder mystery, along with some latent love issues on the part of the narrator. They work well both as stories to keep you up late at night reading, and as ways to put more meat on the bones of Nakayama. It even manages a light commentary on the movie business, driving around Los Angeles, and surprisingly deep discussion of anti-Japanese sentiment in the 20's and 30's.
The addition of the murder story takes this book away a bit from what I might call 'Murakami self-reflection.' Now then, Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite living authors, easily, but at times in his books you live only in the strange, magical, and terrifying head of his narrators. The Age of Dreaming includes a bit more of a story to move things along, but retains much or what makes reading Murakami narrators so compelling. High freaking praise if you ask me.
Often when writing about books I'll say 'If you like John le Carre you'll like this,' or 'Gore Vidal fans will enjoy this book.' Revoyr has written a book that gets to the point of 'If you like BOOKS, you're going to like this.' A great story, a wonderful narrator, and a soft nostalgia for the earliest days of film make this a book you probably ought to buy.
The narrator/main character would have been more sympathetic if there were second person explanations
of how famous and adored he was. Sounded boasting when he tells it, made him less likeable.