The Hollywood Dodo

The Hollywood Dodo

by Geoff Nicholson

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

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. Agent, A.P. Watt. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Pretentious comic novel about a London doctor who can't escape a life that's too much like a bad movie. Having satirized the literary world in Bedlam Burning (2002), the prolific Nicholson here turns his eye on Los Angeles and Hollywood, doing so by intertwining three narratives. The first follows William Draper through squalid 17th-century London as he seeks to mate a dodo and thus preserve an endangered species. The other two, set in present-day LA, concern, first, Rick McCartney, a would-be auteur who wants to film a screenplay about dodos, which, it eventually turns out, consists of the Draper tale. Flying into LA, McCartney has a panic attack and seeks treatment from another passenger, Dr. Henry Cadwallader, the subject of the third narrative. The doctor accompanies his daughter Dorothy, who is heading to a screen test. Cadwallader expresses a wearying disdain for just about everything and everyone, particularly movie cliches, and, unsurprisingly, he finds his experience in LA taking the shape of a tawdry B-movie. As Dorothy flunks her bid for stardom, he kills time playing the part of a house-hunter, thereby getting involved with a real-estate agent who's really a failed actress. Cadwallader's acting and demeanor so fascinate the talent agent who rejected Dorothy that the agent insists he go into movies. So does Rick, who casts the doctor in his film of the Draper story. A porn star, Rick, Dorothy, the real-estate agent, and a mechanical dodo end up poolside at a fake Tudor mansion, all of them running around "like headless chickens (or dodos)." The point, according to the real-estate agent: "Everybody in this town is pretending to be something they're not."Nicholson'ssometimes-sharp lines don't make up for thin characters, worn subjects, and a way-too-clever narrative construct. Agent: Derek Johns/AP Watt

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
0.75(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Hurry Sundown

The movement is westward, racing along the swarming freeway, chasing the sun, accelerating towards the sea, in your painted wagon, in your rental car, further, west of here, west of your life, toward some old dream, some new darkness, away from the old world.

It's a race we always lose. We move too slowly. We can't outrun the gathering dusk. The sky turns carotene orange. The palm trees turn into cartoon silhouettes. You settle for the next best thing. You find somewhere to park, you briefly stand in line, buy your ticket, step inside.

You're glad you made it, but it's not quite as you imagined. You were deceived. You believed the word of mouth. The scenes you saw in the trailer had other, lesser meanings when seen in context. There was less than you expected, less of everything, fewer explosions and car chases and sex scenes. The exposition was clumsy. The dialogue was flat, the performances wooden. You got restless and thought of walking out before the end.

The light at the end of the tunnel is the light from the projector. Someone a few rows back seems to call your name, so you turn your head. You're staring into the source, but what do you see? Motes, beams, shapeless light. The images are now behind you, being thrown over your shoulder. The light's nothing till it hits the screen. And perhaps it's nothing much even then: ghosts, shades, chemical traces, digital enhancements, special effects that aren't so special.

You move through the museum, steady as a Steadicam, through the waxworks and the hall of fame. You preserve memories that may or may not be your own, memories of big names and has-beens, shooting and falling stars, the holy and the wholly corrupt. It all decays: the body, the film stock, the remembrances. In the theater and the VIP room and the pet cemetery, the operations of nature continue: a constant fading, a simplification, the crumbling of structure.

In the cinema of your imagination you run the only movies you own. You are the lone viewer here, the only customer and one who's not easy to please. You watch the pterodactyls and the winged dragons, the mutant slime, the things from the lab, the girls in the fur bikinis. You watch the cartoons and the newsreels, the shorts and documentaries and stag films. It all passes before your eyes like a life, yours, and it all looks so old hat, so last season. Was this really the blockbuster you awaited so eagerly? Was this the hot ticket you'd have killed for?

The house lights are always dimmed, the aperture is always contracted. There's always a twist in the final reel. You settle down, kick back. You close your eyes and wait for the next movie to start.

Copyright © 2004 by Geoff Nicholson

Meet the Author

Geoff Nicholson is the author of fourteen novels, including Hunters & Gatherers and Bleeding London, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize. He divides his time between London and Los Angeles.

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