As an avid reader of her Hairpin column, of course I was eagerly awaiting the full-length version of Anne Helen Petersen's Scandals of Classic HollywoAs an avid reader of her Hairpin column, of course I was eagerly awaiting the full-length version of Anne Helen Petersen's Scandals of Classic Hollywood. Like others, I miss the copious photos and YouTube videos of the column, but that's unavoidable. I would have liked more pictures in the slim section included, but that's the only real criticism I have. It's definitely bigger and better than the column and Petersen was able to do so much more with the material this time around. From the perspective of today, it's harder to place these people and events in context, so I liked the way the chapters were grouped into volumes, which allowed the writing to make more of a connection between the stars and events. The contrast between Judy Garland and Dorothy Dandridge was in particular illuminating and poignant. It's this kind of context and consciousness of the changing times in Hollywood (along with the author's obvious care for the subject) that takes the book to the next level and creates a compelling story without being trashy or exploitative. If there's ever a volume two, I'll be in line for it.
(Note: For me, five stars is generally reserved for the life-changing, absolute favorite type of book, and so four is about as good as anyone can hope(Note: For me, five stars is generally reserved for the life-changing, absolute favorite type of book, and so four is about as good as anyone can hope for. I'm not 100% sure of the rating for this; I'll probably think on it some more. For now it's four, with the assurance that if 4 and a half were currently an option, that's what it would be.
This is an odd book. I have no other way to say this. The cover blurbs dinThis is an odd book. I have no other way to say this. The cover blurbs din't do it justice, plot-wise; it's about so much more, but then isn't that often the case?
Anyway, the subject piqued my interest, though after reading some of the reviews, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. Nonetheless, I checked it out, and tonight I picked it up again. I finished it in one sitting, which is something I don't think I've done in years, but there was something about it that continuously propelled me forward.
First, Tola. A great character who was surprisingly easy for me to identify with, even if I can point out precisely each point where my decisions would diverge from hers. In some ways she was childish, yes, but to me that was just her being caught between childhood and adulthood (all that might just define adolescence, anyway) and trying to navigate all the changes and various events. I think I did like her, but it took time to get there. She was the most psychologically realistic teenage character I've seen in a long time (that even goes for Madge/Tiffany, too, at certain times in the books).
A few reviews said the characters weren't very detailed. I suppose that's true, even about Tola (who I will say more about in a moment), but to me they were evocative. Even though they were sketches more than anything else, they felt real. I think that that dovetails with the book's subjectiveness. It's already been noted that the truth about the alleged affair is never explicitly revealed (an account and explanation of the event that sparked the initial rumor is presented, but even so, you don't really know for sure if that's how it happened, or if that's all that happened.)
In fact, you, the reader, seemed to be invited to draw your own conclusions about so many things, including the motivations of some of the characters and even whether the character was supposed to be good or bad. The grayness of it all was in turns rewarding and vexing in its own way, but ultimately it was rewarding, and I'm glad I read it.
I agree that it's probably the sort of thing that you either love or loathe, but to me it was absorbing and effective and thought-provoking, and what else can I ask for in a novel?...more
I'm really picky with my five star ratings; the book has to actually change my life to get one, but rest assured this was a fabulous, solid 4 and a haI'm really picky with my five star ratings; the book has to actually change my life to get one, but rest assured this was a fabulous, solid 4 and a half stars. Yes, it's long (especially for a little mass market paperback, which made it awkward to hold sometimes), but I can't blame the authors since they covered so much ground. I got the feeling from the back cover and the beginning that it wasn't really just a Sulu book, which turned out to be entirely accurate. Very nice. In fact, it was not just a Sulu book, but also a Klingon book, a Dax book, and a Excelsior book. Did I miss anybody? This is my favorite kind of Star Trek novel: the sort that introduces a ton of backstory, and weaves it in to the existing canonical framework in a way that enriches both. (Plus references to everything. I love references.) Overall, a great sprawling epic of a tale that might take you a while to get through, but will end up being very satisfying....more