Published 2013 chapter 8 – this section taking place during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome in 1962
-- which looks as though it belongs on the kind of popular sociology book that Penguin’s co-imprint, Pelican, used to produce in the 1960s, with a friendly but stylized image to look inviting and intriguing but not too academic.
The other was the review on my friend Col’s webpage – Col’s Criminal Library – where I first saw the cover.
Col said the book contained
Love, romance, celebrity, Hollywood, Cleopatra, Richard Burton, war, illness, family, death, control, substance abuse, screenwriting, hotelry, tourism, Italy, dreams, passion, responsibility, forgiveness and hope all figure throughout this charming tale.
--- so I immediately moved it up to the top of the pile.
I enjoyed it hugely, it is very clever and very very funny, full of good quotable bits. There’s a character who has tried to live his life through a Biblical aphorism but later finds:
“Act as if ye have faith … ,” never actually appears in the Bible. Rather, as far as she could tell, it came from the closing argument given by the Paul Newman character in the film The Verdict.
Another character is getting tired of her boyfriend:
there are two distinct phases to sex with Daryl: the first two minutes like an exam from an autistic gynecologist, the next ten a visit from the Roto-Rooter man.
The book jumps around all over the place, multiple strands and time schemes, and I found some parts a lot better than others. It had a rather random feel, as if it had been thrown together as the author raced through it with galloping momentum. So it was odd to read Walters’ discussion of the book afterwards, and disappointing to find that it took 15 years to write, that almost every element had changed in that time, and that he had rewritten it several times over. I felt that there was no excuse for it not being even better, and slightly as if I wished I had not read his comments.
But overall I would recommend this book whole-heartedly as a good read: a literary novel, well-written and funny and ideal for a long journey or to take on holiday. So thanks again to Col.
The two cinema posters are from Wikimedia Commons – no national stereotypes there then, with formal Cleopatra in the English-language one, and sexy Cleopatra for the French.