Book Review: The Age of Dreaming

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atina110x110BY ATINA HARTUNIAN

Picture it: Sunset Blvd as a dirt road. It’s hard to imagine, let alone believe the famous strip was anything but a row of fashionable nightclubs and boutiques.

How about the massive studio lots that take up a sizable portion of Hollywood? It seems that these great buildings have always been apart of the Los Angeles landscape. But back when Hollywood was in its infancy it was, as the title of Nina Revoyr’s novel suggests,  The Age of Dreaming.

The Age

The novel, written by Nina Revoyr, is a compelling fictional account of a silent film star, Jun Nakayama.

The novel, written by Nina Revoyr, is a compelling fictional account of a silent film star, Jun Nakayama. Throughout the course of the book we find our main character slowly coming to terms with a dark secret he has kept for over 40 years. As readers, we listen to Nakayama fade in and out of the stories of his life in Japan, his rise to celebrity status, and the abrupt downfall of his career in film. Secretive shadows that loom over his memories create an even more intriguing allure around him.

What begins to trigger these memories for Nakayama is an unexpected phone call from a journalist interested in an interview.  What goes from a simple interview turns into a potential part in a present day movie.

But this is only a small part of the book.

The novel is densely layered with surfaces and dimensions that seamlessly seep into each other blurring the lines between fiction and history. Revoyr resurrects early landscapes of Hollywood and Los Angeles right before the urban boom that sprawled the city wide and far.  Within this setting, she displays the primitive ways silent film was produced during a time when the medium was considered an art form by those were participating in it.

Revoyr also taps into the political atmosphere towards the Japanese at the time. In creating the world she sets Nakayama in, these anti-Japanese sentiments were always on the peripheral of his Hollywood lifestyle.  They would slip in from time to time but it did not directly intervene with Nakayama’s life.

Yet we come to find that the studio executives Nakamaya was working for also felt these hostilities. However, this is not the scandal that ended his career. It was a reason to gently push our main character off the silver screen and into the abyss of obscurity. There is empathy for our main character in this respect, for his lost legacy.

Perhaps this is where Revoyr makes her greatest statement. One wonders how much of any sort of history is an accurate account. Who knows how many people have strived for stardom in those early days just to be outshined by others.

Atina Hartunian’s articles have appeared in the North Valley Community News,  The Armenian Reporter,  The Pasadena Weekly, as well as current urban development for Fourstory.org. She is also a website content manager and freelance writer: www.atinahartunian.blogspot.com.

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Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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