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The Hollywood Dodo: A Novel [Hardcover]

Geoff Nicholson


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Book Description

May 25 2004

From the critically acclaimed author of The Food Chain and Footsucker comes a sophisticated comedy about three people caught in the Hollywood machine.

Following the death of his wife, Henry Cadwallader, an English doctor, insists on accompanying his aspiring actress daughter, Dorothy, on a trip to Hollywood. He fears she will fall prey to corruption and sleaze, but finds that it is actually he who is being corrupted at every turn.

On the flight to LA, they meet 'auteur of the future' Rick McCartney. Rick's trying to get the backing to make a costume drama set in seventeenth-century England about a man who owns what he fears is the last dodo on earth.

Dorothy Cadwallader's quest for fame begins badly and goes downhill from there. Meanwhile Henry becomes involved with a former actress turned estate agent. The lives of Henry and Dorothy once again intersect with that of Rick McCartney to dramatic effect as the characters find themselves drawn to the brink, where dreams die and extinction threatens.

Sharp humor and keen observation drive Geoff Nicholson's satisfyingly oblique look at America's obsession with stardom.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 25 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743257790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743257794
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.9 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 422 g

Product Description

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dodo as Metaphor and Punchline Oct. 17 2004
By Debbie Lee Wesselmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this delectable satire about Hollywood and extinction, Geoff Nicholson serves up a complicated recipe of has-beens, wannabes, maybes, and a few dodos - both literal and figurative. British physician Henry accompanies his aspiring actress and yellow-toothed daughter Dorothy to Hollywood where she is supposed to meet with a talent scout. On the airplane, their paths cross briefly with self-described "Auteur of the Future" Rick, a young man prone to panic attacks and bouts of self-importance. Rick harbors an obsession with dodo birds which leads him (and the reader) to the mysterious story of William Draper, a 17th century medical student afflicted with erythrohepatic porphyria, a genetic condition that causes skin to blister with exposure to sunlight. Draper, too, is obsessed with dodos, and sets out to procure one of the last of the species on display in a seedy quarter of London. As Henry discovers a similarly afflicted man trying to sell him an animation cel of a dodo, as Rick struggles with a bizarrely vivid past life regression brought on by a beautiful one-legged woman, and as Draper tries desperately to find a mate for his beloved but aging dodo, real-life intrudes on film, becoming art in itself, and questions arise about what is contrived and what is real. And of course, since this is a novel, those questions ultimately mean nothing since all is fiction.

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.
5.0 out of 5 stars there is real heart in this book, not just farce Dec 24 2012
By Elaine Radford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I hope it is OK to post three lines from a review I wrote of this book awhile back for my personal diary: "Yes, a British farce, but still a story that sneaks in and touches your heart. The scenes set in the 1600s focus on a hero whose great dream is to breed the dodo and repopulate the world with them. Sad how life makes his dream slip away step by step, day by day, year by year." The other information on this page makes it clear about the farcical and ridiculous elements. But don't get sand-bagged. (If anyone remembers the dog episode of the TV show "Futurama," you know what I'm talking about when you think you are just seeing something silly and then suddenly you are hit by life's sadness.) There is a deep feeling hidden in this story, especially in the 17th century thread.

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.

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