It’s raining quite hard this morning, and is forecast to stay like this all day, so I think it will be an inside day, a perfect day for reading, among other things.
My volunteer book group met yesterday to discuss A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott. Set in Los Angeles in the late 1930’s, this book is told from the point of view of Julie Crawford, a young woman who has escaped her family and hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana to try to make it as a screenwriter in the glittery world of Hollywood. She lands a job working on the set as David O Selznick begins filming Gone with the Wind, and she is fortunate to meet Andy Weinstein, Selznick’s right-hand man, who introduces her to Carole Lombard. Outspoken, brash Lombard takes Julie under her wing and guides her along as she encounters the drama and controversies that take place during the filming, on and off the set, while also falling in love with Andy, a Jewish American during the time that Europe is on the cusp of WWII. Alcott provides plenty of inside information about the lives of actors and other members of the filming crew, as well as details about the making of this famous film. Along with the budding love story between Andy and Julie, we also get details about the romance between Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, how Gable was finally able to secure a divorce from his first wife and marry Lombard, and their struggles to have a baby. As well as with the story about the making of the film and the romances, Alcott also includes the struggles some actors and other film people had at this time when they are advised to “just ignore” what was happening to Jews in Europe. She suggests that Hollywood as a whole made the collective decision to turn a blind eye in the years leading up to the war, and it was not until 1939 that they began releasing anti-Nazi films (http://www.filmreference.com/encyclopedia/Romantic-Comedy-Yugoslavia/World-War-II-HOLLYWOOD-GOES-TO-WAR.html). The book also provided details about the racism that still existed in many parts of the United States, including the involvement of the NAACP in the filming of Gone with the Wind and the treatment of black actors during the gala release of the film, a three-day party in Atlanta where these actors were not permitted to attend. Without these parts of the story, the book would have been merely entertaining and light, but the introduction of such serious topics as racism and the Nazis added depth and weight to the novel. For probably the first time ever in the history of this book group, all the members and I were of the same opinion about the book! None of us loved it, but we all felt that it was a worthwhile read because we learned so much about Hollywood and filmmaking and Gone with the Wind. None of us are real “Hollywood gossip” types, but this book did not feel like gossip; rather, it was a relaying of the challenges actors face when every detail of their lives is always on display for public consumption. We felt that Julie was a strong female character who defied convention and struck out to make it on her own, and we were all glad she succeeded. We felt that the major themes in this book were the struggles to remain true to yourself amidst the artificiality of the film world, the difficulties in having lasting relationships, and the changing roles of women. As I discovered yesterday, when we all have the same opinions about the book, there is very little to discuss. We spent much of our time talking about the movie, about what we have read recently, about books we may consider putting on our list in the future, and about bullying and Nietzsche’s concept of “the will to power”. We talked about past books and former book club members, which sort of confused our new member; then, "to confuse her even more", one member, with a small twitter, brought up Bear by Marian Engel. While we haven't mentioned it in a while, this landmark novel made an appearance once again, and through a bit of probing, we determined that our new member, too, has read this "love story". All in all, while it was not a book that lead to great indepth discussion, this book led to an interesting and varied discussion for our group so I felt it was a good choice and a successful meeting. It is fairly light, and the details about actors and filmmaking are really interesting, so I would recommend this book if you are in the mood for this type of quick read.
That’s all for today. Stay dry!
Bye for now…