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Sunnyside Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 5 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (May 5 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307270688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307270689
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 16.9 x 23.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 862 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #964,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Schmadrian TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 2 2009
Format: Hardcover
What an amazing experience, to be caught up in a truly gifted writer's invention, especially when the writer in question is clearly firing on all cylinders.

I'm always going on about how some writers have a distinct voice, others do not. Some have something to say, others do not. Mr. Gold most assuredly does have both of these qualities. As well as a wonderful command of the language, a love of all it can do in moving someone with a tale, a wry wit, a light touch, a thorough hand...

It's just about everything you could ask for in a 'big read' (500+ pages).

And less, unfortunately. Because as engrossing a read as it was, it fell flat for me on several fronts. First and foremost, ironically, the Chaplin stuff; probably the least compelling of all the threads. Granted, I've never understood the unquestionable fascination with him, either as a celebrity or as a performer. But putting aside any biases, I felt the portions of the book just didn't capture my imagination...and he came off as a prat. (Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for prats.) As well, at least one other thread could have done with some judicious editing, or at the very least, a better focus. (I'm mostly referring to the Russian element.) Because Gold's scope was so broad, because he had so many entertaining balls in the air, it's understandable that some missteps were taken. Not to worry; they don't diminish the overall effects hardly at all.

This is a novel to relish, a true 'reader's read', one I'd highly recommend to anyone wanting to get lost in a great tale.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 69 reviews
58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
A fine mess April 26 2009
By mrliteral - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
It's always refreshing to go into a book or movie with low expectations and come out finding that it not only was better than expected, but actually really good. On the other hand, it is always disappointing when you have high expectations - in fact, you're positively inclined to the book even at page one - and then find it is actually not so hot. Sadly, Glen David Gold's Sunnyside fits into this latter category.

Gold's first novel was the wonderful Carter Beats the Devil, a book that made me want to see what'd he do next. It took years for Sunnyside to appear, and it wasn't really worth the wait. The title refers to a movie by Charlie Chaplin that was being made during the bulk of the story. Chaplin, in fact, is the central character of the book, though I'd be hard pressed to call him the main character; he only appears in around a third of the book and much of the rest of the time, the story has little to do with him.

In fact, it's unclear what Sunnyside is supposed to be about. It seems to be several very loosely connected stories (often tied together only tangentially to Chaplin), none of which are all that interesting. Probably the best plot line in the book follows Lee Duncan who is forced into fighting in World War I and winds up saving a couple puppies from death. In another storyline, Private Hugo Black (apparently no relation to the prominent Supreme Court justice of the mid-Twentieth Century) gets tangled up with the American attempt to squash the Bolsheviks in Russia. Chaplin, meanwhile, tries to make movies, romance women, bolster the war effort and fight the studios.

In other words, there is a lot of activity going on, but it really doesn't add up to much. The plot - what there is of it - is muddled. Unlike Carter Beats the Devil, almost all the characters seem remote (except maybe Lee), so it's hard to really identify with them. Only in his description of the story setting - in particular, WWI-era Hollywood - does Gold do okay. On a technical level, Gold writes well, but Sunnyside is like a long hike: you may start out energetic and enjoying it, but in the end, you're trudging along, just waiting for it to all be over.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Gold Beats the "Carter" April 4 2009
By S. Berner - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In 2001 a magical (in more ways than one) first novel by Glen David Gold, entitled "Carter Beats the Devil" was published. It immediately heralded the arrival of a major new writer and caused those of us who read it to begin to wait eagerly for Gold's second novel. We knew, of course, from the outset, that A) it would be well-written since Gold demonstrated the kind of mastery of language that wasn't going to disappear, and B) it couldn't POSSIBLY recapture the magic of "Carter". And we waited... and waited... and, just when we were resigning ourselves to the possibility that Gold would become a sort of Harper Lee for the new millenium, he brought forth "Sunnyside". And we discovered that A) was correct, the language, the style, the characters, were every bit the equal of "Carter". AND B) was correct as well; "Sunnyside" isn't anywhere near "Carter"... it's SO MUCH better. As with "Carter", Gold focuses a lot of attention on a real person, only, where magician Howard Carter was a somewhat obscure character (indeed, I had to look him up to be sure he WAS real), this time it's no less a personage than Charlie Chaplin. And, as with "Carter" Gold blends fact, fiction, and outrageous speculation, into a whole. But, whereas "Carter" essentially became a marvelous anecdote, "Sunnyside" creates an epic world. More I will not tell you, because you MUST read and discover this world for yourself... or you'll regret it for a long time to come.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
It's not exactly a novel, but... April 22 2010
By Mark Kawakami - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
It's not exactly a novel, but rather a collection of astonishingly well-written scenes in roughly chronological order. This should bother me, except that the scenes are, as I said, astonishingly well-written.

If you check out the distribution of ratings here, you'll see this is probably one of the most evenly spread set of ratings for anything on Amazon. People either love it, hate it or somewhere in between, so i have no idea whether you're going to like it. But I loved it. Gold's writing, from the craftsmanship in the prose to the super-fine detailing of the characters to the originality of the plotting, is exactly the sort of polished, inventive storytelling I crave. It's just unusual to find such a fine storyteller writing such a fine novel without telling us a larger story. There's no cohesion here, but there is brilliance.

Are you going to like it? Who knows? I sure don't. I'd guess that if you're a fan of his first novel, "Carter Beats the Devil", you're probably more likely to enjoy this. And if you read, say, Les Miserables and loved it because of its digressions and tangents rather than despite them, you're probably in the right place. And if you simply like silent era Hollywood, you'll probably have a good time here as well. For everyone else: just avoid trying to think about how it will all tie together (spoiler alert: it won't) as you read it and you'll probably be in the right frame of mind to appreciate just how good a novel Sunnyside is, despite not actually being a novel.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant post-modern prose, but is it a novel? June 22 2009
By J. A Magill - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
What is one to make of Glen David Gold's second act, "Sunnyside," which comes more than seven years after his much praised first novel, "Carter Beats the Devil"? As with Carter, Gold again demonstrates his extraordinary gifts - characterization, humor, and perfectly metered prose, as well as exceptional research - are not for this author tricks but sheer magic. Yet where Carter followed a story that was linear and easily deciphered, "Sunnyside" follows not one track but several. And if like most readers you follow these various paths expecting that Gold will eventually bring them together in some tidy ending, you are sure to be disappointed. Instead these separate stories circle each other and occasionally almost, but never quite touch, having in common the period leading up to America's involvement in World War I.

Gold gives us one story of handsome Leland Wheeler, the son of a woman lighthouse officer and a Wild West scoundrel who dreams of Hollywood fame against his mother's wishes; a family of Russian Jewish grifters who dream of riches; Hugo Black, an intellectual who searches for glory but has the misfortune of being sent to Siberia as part of the Allies ill conceived plan to undermine the new Bolshevik regime, and, of course, Charlie Chaplin. One hardly knows what to say about the Chaplin story, as it engages so many other varied plots, sub-plots and characters (and so many characters! Doug Fairbanks, Goldwyn, McAdoo, Zukor, Mary Pickford, Rin tin tin , etc, etc, etc) as Gold attempts to present and critique Hollywood's formation.

I cannot sufficiently praise either Gold's prose or his research. Here is historical fiction presented by a master, who weaves a spectacular tapestry of facts, fiction, and opinion creating a whole that runs through with pathos and humor. His sentences sing and his observations often give a reader pause. So what is one to make of Sunnyside's strange disassociated structure? From the novel's outset Gold makes very clear that he sees in this period the birth of modern mass culture, with Chaplin filling the essential role of that culture's celebrity. Perhaps that is why he organized the novel in this way, to demonstrate how disjointed society has become and reflect the impact of celebrity on its members.

One cannot know for sure what this author intended, and at times one may become frustrated by the novel's seemingly obtuse structure. One thing is certain, in the hands of a lesser writer, the attempt would have sunk into a disastrous morass and it is a testament to Gold's tremendous talent that he can keep this work afloat and his reader engaged. One may puzzle over Gold's intent, but Sunnyside offers no room to doubt his gifts.

By any standard, Sunnyside is an unconventional piece of story telling and I am reticent to attach the word novel to a work so unusually structured. Many readers will find the work to not be their cup of tea and will wonder whether they should dive into its 500+ pages. I suspect even that those who enjoy it will find that it more than once leaves them scratching their heads. One thing is certain, Gold here undertakes something both unusual and memorable and I for one took considerable satisfaction in the trip.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Major Disappointment Feb. 1 2010
By Bill Thomson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was swept away by Carter Beats the Devil, so I had great expectations for Sunnyside. The book was a complete letdown. There are three stories in Sunnyside that are unrelated apart from the fact that they are occurring at the same time, albeit in very different locations: Hollywood, France, and Russia. There isn't really much of a plot to any of them. The main story concerns Charlie Chaplin making a movie, although I'd guess that around half the book concerns the other two. I kept waiting for the stories to somehow converge, but in the end I was left with no idea what the point of this book was.

And then it hit me. Throughout the book, Chaplin is constantly at a loss for what to put in his movie, what story to tell, and how to bring it together, and is running behind his deadline. Finally, he is told not to worry about it. If it doesn't fit together, the audience will just assume they aren't clever enough to figure it out, since he's Chaplin after all. Whether through irony or intention, that is Sunnyside, it's a Chaplin film that never fits together. I'll give Gold the benefit of the doubt here, and assume he did it on purpose, if so its clever, but not even close to being worth the length it takes to read this one.

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