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3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  92 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews

Noah Cross, Norma Desmond, Norman Bates, Harry Lime—these are a few of nearly 100 names that inhabit the mind of the narrator as he starts to compose short biographies of some of the most famous characters in the history of film noir. He sketches in whole lives, lives as intense as the dreams put up on the screen. The book begins to become a novel when the characters start

Paperback, 274 pages
Published September 12th 1986 by Vintage (first published May 12th 1985)
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Feb 26, 2008 Darren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost all of David Thomson's writing is conceptual in one way or another, mixing suspected fact with outright fiction - his "Biographical Dictionary of Film" critiques the lives of motion picture performers as if their very existence was an artistic performance, and each of their film was a subplot along the way; "The Whole Equation" spins a history of Hollywood using, for primary sources, Fitzgerald's book "The Last Tycoon" and Robert Towne's script for Chinatown (both, Thomson argues, unfinis ...more
Mar 05, 2012 Linton rated it liked it
Shelves: keepers, novels
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James Bowman
Sep 04, 2015 James Bowman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't go into this demanding much - just a series of intriguing fictional biographies that interconnected with each other over the course of the novel. And to be fair, most of the biographies are well-written, and many are interesting. A few are even touching. But there are two major flaws that kept me from really enjoying this book:

1) To really appreciate this as a whole, you need to be familiar with all of the characters' source films. This is especially noticeable with some of the less fam
Bruce Reid
Jul 01, 2008 Bruce Reid rated it it was amazing
One of the great books on film--no, movies, and the pall they can cast over the willing and obsessive. Several dozen biographies of movie characters, interwoven to delineate a conspiracy as dark and haunted as in any noir. By the end, a strange and sad tribute to that urge to leap into the screen and wander for ourselves the back alleys of Casablanca, the halls of the Overlook, or the scenic highlights of San Francisco (always just out of Madeleine's sight).
Mar 20, 2010 Joe rated it liked it
Seemed like a sure thing for a cinephile, but I struggled to get through this book at times. I've seen just about all of the films included, and found myself alternately enthralled and perturbed. I recommend Steve Erickson's Zeroville as a much more successful and entertaining book for film nerds.
Leonard Pierce
Feb 02, 2009 Leonard Pierce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Picked this up (finally) on the advice of Gary Mairs, and it was quite worth it. It's an interesting critical meditation on film noir under the guise of a rather clever bit of metatextual fiction. Recommended.
Paul Hayes
Dec 18, 2013 Paul Hayes rated it it was amazing
If you love film noir, or for that matter 20th century American history, you'll love this. Brilliantly, clinically, written. Probably the best illustration I've seen of how film and it's characters and plots entered our psyches, and how 'truth' and 'fiction' have become intertwined in our heads.
Sean Condon
Apr 17, 2013 Sean Condon rated it it was amazing
Great idea, very well done. Dreadful cover, though (in this edition, anyway).
Oct 23, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing
See review by Bruce Reid. I couldn't possibly improve on it.
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