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My Hollywood (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – August 9, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Beautifully realized. . . . One of the most insightful books in years about contemporary American life.” —San Francisco Chronicle 
  
“Simpson works habitual magic, showing how love travels, ownerless and unbidden.” —The New York Times Book Review 

 “Heart-wrenching. . . . This is a domestic novel and a highly political one.” —Time
 
“Simpson is a virtuoso. . . . Expansive and original.” —The Boston Globe
 
“[A] wise . . . haunting novel.” —People
 
“A double-Dutch game of masterful writing. . . . Won’t easily fade from anyone’s mind.” —Entertainment Weekly

“In Mona Simpson’s new novel about a modern marriage and its discontents, the saga of its Filipina domestic sketches a new variation on the American dream. . . . An intimate, ironic tale.” —Elle

“Wondrous work. . . . Painfully real and moving and funny.” —The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“This is classic Simpson. . . . The most serious and potent truths are told.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“An absorbing novel. . . . With her incisive portrayal of the frustrations felt by working parents, My Hollywood could easily be Our Country.” —The Washington Post Book World 

“It takes a very subtle, sophisticated and confident writer to make our most common problems come off as unique on the page as they feel at 3 in the morning. If anyone can do it, Mona Simpson can. And does. But there’s more.” —Los Angeles Times

“Simpson’s massive gifts—for unflinching precision, for artful indirection and for the deft unfurling of imagery—are on vivid display in My Hollywood, a book that carries us down deep, into the darkness of two distinct worlds, and lights them up, finding all the comedy in the ways they are the same world, and all the tragedy in the unbridgeable distance between them.” —Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

“Simpson’s novel shows the intricacies and inequities of domestic politics. . . . My Hollywood is a smart, topical, absorbing novel.” — Kansas City Star

 “The Hollywood so devastatingly rendered in Mona Simpson’s new novel is a different universe from the world-famous well-spring of movie magic. . . . Alternately satiric and poignant.” —The Miami Herald

“[Simpson] takes us inside what once was called the heart-chamber of the world. The walls of the chamber are touched by beauty, but it echoes with the plangent sounds of love lost, love damaged, love unrequited; and with the sadness of those sighs are the music of a love unfound.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“A darkly beautiful atlas of the American promised land, and a definitive novel of modern domesticity.  Brilliant, in short.” —Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland

“[In] My Hollywood, Mona Simpson gives Westside nannies a voice, and her name is Lola.” —LA Magazine 

“Simpson treats both main characters with respect, allowing truth and cool humor to emerge from the contrast between the ways they see their shared lives.” —The Columbus Dispatch

“Her prose is gentle but leaves a savage trail of insights.” —Time

 “Heartbreaking. . . . The real star of this richly imagined novel is an immigrant with a shrewd eye, a kind heart and lots to tell about love, marriage and bringing up baby.” —The Toronto Star

“Smart, endearing, and bittersweet. . . . Simpson shows us how the intimate politics of mother and nanny have nothing to do with who is paying who[m.” —The Jewish Journal

“An honest and poetic exploration of why caring for a child—whether by a mother or a nanny—still just can’t get the respect or security it deserves.” —The Huffington Post

 “In her gradually unfolding, finely tuned narrative, Simpson shows how, for many women, the nanny-mom relationship grows to be more intimate than marriage.” —NPR

“Simpson penetrates the layers of Filipino culture, parsing hairstyles, neighborhoods, and dialects. The resulting characters are rounded, real people. . . . Simpson’s writing is honed, precise, sharp as the inland heat.” — PopMatters.com

“Astute, clever, wide-ranging, sometimes funny, always sympathetic to the varieties of love and domesticity, My Hollywood will stay in the mind because it digs deep into contemporary life and manners, raising questions about how we live and what we need.” —The Washington Times

“[A] novel of manners about modern motherhood. . . . Highlights clashes of culture and class.” —The New Yorker
“One more time, Mona Simpson has burrowed deep into the American family to extract the shivering truth about the many trade-offs women face in raising children today. . . . My Hollywood is vast in scope, exquisite in detail, rife with pleasures.” —Michelle Huneven, author of Blame

“Hilarious and heartbreaking.” —Marie Claire

“Simpson deploys a sharp eye and mordant wit to show us the backstairs view of a Hollywood we’ve never seen. . . . The novel your best friend won’t lend you.” —More

“Simpson skillfully manages to move us with the two women’s emotions even as she surrounds them with wicked satire. . . . Slyly funny.” —The Seattle Times

About the Author

Mona Simpson is the author of Anywhere But Here, The Lost Father, A Regular Guy, and Off Keck Road, which was the finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the Heartland Prize of the Chicago Tribune. She has received a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim grant, a Lila Wallace—Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, and, recently, an Academy Arts and Letters Award. She lives in Santa Monica, California.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307475026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307475022
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mona Simpson is one of the only contemporary novelists to nail the working mother species and to give a voice to the voiceless Filipina, the indispensable yet invisible Nanny. My Hollywood should be required reading for mothers, fathers, and anybody interested in the triangular relationships between children, their caretakers, and their harrowed and harassed parents. My Hollywood manages, ever so lightly, no heavy-handedness there, to give voice to the working mother's struggle--always wanting two things at once--and to the voiceless caregivers (in this case the beautifully-drawn Lola). Simpson's has mastered double narration. On one hand, we read about Claire the musician, the new mother, the woman seeking a room of her own with a crib in the corner. On the other, Lola, the Filipina nanny, sending her pennies back home, building an autonomous life for the children she has left behind and never sees. How many women like Claire do we know, still shaking off the residue of romance, self-destructive perfectionists, who make a profession out of being so hard on themselves? This novel is a must read for practitioners and theorists of the American work ethic, and how it coalesces with the myth of the perfect mother. Work is everywhere in Simpson's characters' lives--of course in husband-Paul's infernal Hollywood schedule, but also in Claire's consciousness that each minute that passes with "nothing" to show for is pure loss: (I'd blown half my time... I was a dandelion blown). What a brilliant portrait of modern time (Time had once been public, in a clock tower on a town square; everyone saw the same hour and minutes. When watches were invented...people could carry around their own time).Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful and expansive novel about love (maternal and marital) and work (paid and unpaid). Claire, a composer, is a new mother trying to figure out how to manage the all consuming work of tending a baby and still do what sustains her--playing the cello and writing music. (Her husband Paul, an anxious TV writer-in-training, goes to work in the morning and stays there until deep in the night.) So Claire hires Lola, a Filipina nanny who is raising the money to send her youngest daughter through medical school. The two women take turns telling their stories in sharply contrasting, but equally compelling voices. Throughout, Simpson addresses vital human concerns: Who actually raises the children? Can a mostly-absent parent still be a good parent? How do children thrive and marriages endure in these various arrangements? Simpson's prose has notes of Henry Green and Virginia Woolf and even, at times, the satiric edge of Evelyn Waugh. This book is intelligent, beautifully and quite cleverly written, often funny. A literary novel for the ages.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book about the modern Mom in all her over-scheduled yet scattered glory. There were definite insights in this book, and areas where the writing was outstanding. But, unfortunately, the story ultimately fell a bit flat.

Told alternately from the perspective of Claire, a composer and the mother of a young son; and Lola, the Filipina nanny whom she hires to watch her child when she is working, the story covers a lot of the challenges that the working mother faces, including the guilt involved in choosing to continue with a career when having a young child. I am not sure if the author was trying to portray the hectic and often scattered nature of the working mother when using Claire as the narrator, but I found her sections a bit serpentine and unfocused. From Lola's narrative, we also get insights into a close community of nannies who bond together and share their own challenges, which in many cases includes being working mothers themselves.

Nobody's perfect in this book. Mistakes are made on both sides of the spectrum. I think the author actually nailed a lot of the challenges to parenting these days, but overall, the story gets flat and repetitive as the book goes on. Perhaps this is because the everyday trials and tribulations of the average mom tend to be a bit boring after awhile in real life as well as on the page. Everyone's just doing what they think is best for their family, but there is really not much excitement there. The book was just okay.
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Learning of the split narrative voice in My Hollywood before reading it, you may shallowly assume that it is used to portray the complex relationship between a mother and nanny who are jointly raising a child. In actuality, the stories of both Claire and Lola could easily stand on their own. They are not characters in opposition, and the focus of each is not the other. The relationship is used however, to forcefully debate the question of, "Who is really the mom, when a child is raised by a loving nanny?"

Claire's angst about parenting, difficulty with her marriage, and 'side plot' with her mom are craftily weaved together to form a realistic picture of a life unsure. Simpson's insight into the character's emotional and psychological outlook is deftly presented. Claire is an unhappy woman in her 30s, trapped in a life she grudgingly wants to make work. The reader is taken along for the ride as if sitting alone at the dining room table, waiting for her husband night after night, with Claire. The emotional impact of Claire comes from the character's realism - right down to gastrointestinal issues after a rare night out with her husband.

Lola is perhaps the novel's more interesting narrator, but her relatively exotic origin (at least for an American reader) is also the novel's greatest weakness. Simpson attempts to narrate in first person with all of the quirks that a non-native English speaker would have. It doesn't quite come across as patronizing, but as Simpson implicitly admits in the Acknowledgements section, she is at least a little bit out of her element as a writer. Some of Lola's narrative is hard to follow, but her emotional impact becomes increasingly strong as the novel progresses. We come to understand why Lola deeply loves the children she cares for.
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