The Hollywood Dodo: A Novel Hardcover – May 25 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
An extinct 17th-century flightless bird is at the heart of Nicholson's strained 15th novel, which follows three very different men from different times in their pursuit of the elusive dodo. Nicholson's alternating narrative is split three ways. In the present day, on a transcontinental flight to Los Angeles, Dr. Henry Cadwallader and his budding actress daughter, Dorothy, encounter (and revive) panic-stricken auteur Rick McCartney, who is hoping to get Hollywood to back his production of a movie about the dodo. At the center of Rick's screenplay is William Draper, a 17th-century Oxford University student obsessed with the acquisition and procreation of the bird. As Draper's life story unfolds, so does Henry's L.A. house-hunting and his lust for a sociable real estate agent, Barbara Scott. When Dorothy's acting prospects dwindle, Henry catches the talent agent's eye and decides to try his hand at acting, even though he's much embittered by Hollywood and its formulaic movie treatments. All of this nonsensical wackiness peaks at a mock-Tudor house that Rick has borrowed to produce both a porn movie and his long-awaited dodo film that he's persuaded Henry to star in. Nicholson's transparent characterizations unfortunately aren't strong enough to translate all the rampant silliness into hearty belly laughs, even with the poolside guest appearance of a mechanical dodo. Based on a clever concept that never quite gels, this doesn't reach the giddy heights of previous Nicholson black comedies like Bleeding London and Bedlam Burning.
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What do a failed medical student, a successful physician, and an aspiring screenwriter have in common? Would you believe a dodo? Throw in a one-legged past-life therapist, an Elizabethan herbalist turned taxidermist, and the reigning king of low-budget porn movies, and you've still only met a few of master satirist Nicholson's trademark cast of quirky characters. The plot is no less eccentric. Accompanying his wannabe-actress daughter from London to Tinseltown, Dr. Henry Cadwallader encounters wannabe-screenwriter Rick McCartney, who has been in London doing research for a potential movie. McCartney stumbles upon the story of one William Draper, a seventeeth-century wannabe-physician with a strange obsession. The fact that all three men are connected by an extinct bird isn't quite as bizarre as it sounds; this is, after all, Hollywood we're talking about. With carefully understated yet scathingly observant humor, Nicholson seamlessly weaves three distinctly disparate stories into one kaleidoscopic spoof of the entertainment industry, the medical establishment, and wacky Hollywood lifestyles, for a wickedly riotous read. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
With chapter titles cleverly named after movies, Nicholson never loses sight of the artificiality of the genre he is mocking. The scenes that take place in Hollywood are hilarious, while Draper's affliction and affections are touchingly told. Perhaps the most daring turn is Nicholson's dovetailing of disparate plot elements into a wild, unexpected finale. While much is left unexplained, the narrative wink at the end brings it all together.
This is a truly fun novel. Nicholson's wit is more sly than biting, and he relishes the absurd. Below the hilarity lurks more serious themes - of corruption (what else in Hollywood?), of obsession, and of mortality - but these ideas never alter the established tone. Readers will find that they can't put this novel aside for more than a few hours before picking it up again to devour the next chapter.
I read the hardcover edition, not the Kindle version, but I saw nothing in the original format to make me think it wouldn't convert easily to Kindle.