Hollywood & God

Overview

Hollywood & God is a virtuosic performance, filled with crossings back and forth from cinematic chiaroscuro to a kind of unsettling desperation and disturbing—even lurid—hallucination. From the Baltimore Catechism to the great noir films of the last century to today’s Elvis impersonators and Paris Hilton (an impersonator of a different sort), Robert Polito tracks the snares, abrasions, and hijinks of personal identities in our society of the spectacle, a place where who we say we are, and who (we think) we ...

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Overview

Hollywood & God is a virtuosic performance, filled with crossings back and forth from cinematic chiaroscuro to a kind of unsettling desperation and disturbing—even lurid—hallucination. From the Baltimore Catechism to the great noir films of the last century to today’s Elvis impersonators and Paris Hilton (an impersonator of a different sort), Robert Polito tracks the snares, abrasions, and hijinks of personal identities in our society of the spectacle, a place where who we say we are, and who (we think) we think we are fade in and out of consciousness, like flickers of light dancing tantalizingly on the silver screen. Mixing lyric and essay, collage and narrative, memoir and invention, Hollywood & God is an audacious book, as contemporary as it is historical, as sly and witty as it is devastatingly serious.

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Editorial Reviews

Brooklyn Rail

“Clean, decisive, and yet shimmering with the too-real clarity of a dream, Polito’s poetry is part craving, and all desire. . . . And he makes a convincing case for a Gnostic revelation—the strumming need in the American soul is the spark of the divine, which of course is manifested in the all-too imperfect expression pop culture.”
Booklist - Donna Seaman

“The title can stand as the best terse summation of American culture on record. . . . Polito is cobra-fascinating in his second poetry collection. Each finely patterned, muscular line holds wonder and menace.”

Greil Marcus

Hollywood & God could have been called ‘American Dirt’; it could have been called ‘Wrong Turns.’ A reader will find his or her own titles, because almost everything here—‘Riding with the King’ picking up Huckleberry Finn, ‘Overheard in the Love Hotel’ summoning Elvis Presley, ‘The Great Awakening’ calling Jonathan Edwards up on stage with T.D. Rice—is emblematic. Emblematic, but also whispering, as if to say, ‘First impressions are always wrong.’ This is a book full of people hiding behind their own names: a book of surprises.”
Bookforum - Ange Mlinko

“Hollywood—metonym for all worldly desires—hasn’t replaced God, according to Polito; both are receding into the past at exactly the same velocity. . . . Every bid for transcendence foregrounds a lack. What would we do without that lack? stop worrying and enjoy your life, enjoined the bus ads; our poets, like the wistful Polito . . . it’s not that simple.”
Entertainment Weekly - Ken Tucker

"Polito makes poetry out of pop-culture in a way that deepens, not cheapens, either the poem or the pop. Elvis Presley, the Edgar G, Ulmer thriller Detour, and Dunkin Donuts all put in appearances in poems whose lines snake across the page, wrapping themselves around rhythms that surprise and hypnotize."
Publishers Weekly

Split between oddly angled bits of memoir and acts of Hollywood ventriloquy, this second poetry collection from Polito (Doubles) leaps between essays and lyrics, between theology and violence, between tell-alls and persona poems. "If only God would save me," Polito writes in the title poem, "I would know how to hurt you," with the kind of drama and intimacy that infuses many of the voices here. Even Paris Hilton weighs in on spiritual matters ("My God makes me feel good"). A story about a starlet who falls into a life of drinking, prostitution and poetry doubles as a sad coming-of-age tale, while "Please Refrain from Talking During the Movie" mixes interior and exterior voices, joining much in this book that's overheard, quoted and borrowed: love moans through hotel walls, instructions from an astrologer and memorized pieces of the Baltimore Catechism. Confused seekers also abound: a woman who thinks the "owlish man" she lives with is Bob Dylan; another woman who's conflation of her own face, Elvis and God ends tragically; and a man in search of a tintype of his grandmother that may or may not exist. Three personal essays anchor the poems, each a story about interrogating self and god, whether fallen, falling apart or missing altogether. (Apr.)

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Booklist

“The title can stand as the best terse summation of American culture on record. . . . Polito is cobra-fascinating in his second poetry collection. Each finely patterned, muscular line holds wonder and menace.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist

— Donna Seaman

Bookforum

“Hollywood—metonym for all worldly desires—hasn’t replaced God, according to Polito; both are receding into the past at exactly the same velocity. . . . Every bid for transcendence foregrounds a lack. What would we do without that lack? stop worrying and enjoy your life, enjoined the bus ads; our poets, like the wistful Polito . . . it’s not that simple.”—Bookforum

— Ange Mlinko

Entertainment Weekly

"Politi makes poetry out of pop-culture in a way that deepens, not cheapens, either the poem or the pop. Elvis Presley, the Edgar G, Ulmer thriller Detour, and Dunkin Donuts all put in appearances in poems whose lines snake across the page, wrapping themselves around rhythms that surprise and hypnotize."

— Ken Tucker

Barnes & Noble Review - Tess Taylor
“The Best Poetry of 2009. . . . This collection is shattered, mythic, and dazzling.”
Rosanna Warren
“Robert Polito has composed a book both delirious and cool. In his play of cinematic illusion, the most fictive voices—down-and-out actors, demented DJs, Elvis impersonators—express the starkest truths, and the teasingly autobiographical passages slide into myth. Polito puts his finger on the pulse of American dreaming in all its pathos and tawdry glamour. He is unsparing, swift, and fiendishly intelligent, and runs rings around the poetry of earnest personal anecdote in this rich and astonishing collection.”
Frank Bidart
“In the America of these poems, the obsession with celebrity and the yearning toward God constantly threaten to turn into each other. Both, by promising us transcendence, ravage the human spirit. Alongside the glamour of celebrity and God stands the unknowable, tormented figure of the poet’s father, seemingly untouched by either. Somehow Polito manages to be both disabused and hypnotized in this ambitious, eloquent, finally tremendously touching book.”
Wayne Koestenbaum
“Like Robert Lowell's Life Studies, Robert Polito’s fabulous new book combines prose and poetry to sing out a polymorphous, hydra-headed declaration of independence from identity’s cage. We can’t classify Polito’s thrilling recitatives; we can only surrender to their baroque plainspokenness and their sonorous clarity, which reaches back toward modernist-epic cadences for its grave sea swell. Turn left on Vine; drive down Hollywood until you hit God. I’ll gladly meet Polito, a marvel-maker, at any intersection, at any hour.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226103655
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/19/2013
  • Series: Phoenix Poets Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 1,408,619
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Polito

Robert Polito is president of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. He is the author of Doubles, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He was director of the New School Graduate Writing Program, and he received the National Book Critics Circle Award for his biography of novelist Jim Thompson, Savage Art

 

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Hollywood Hills

Barbara Payton: A Memoir

Paris Hilton Calls on Jesus

Two or Three Dreams About . . .

Mike the Winger

Please Refrain From Talking During The Movie

Overheard in the Love Hotel

New York School

Three Horse Operas

What a Friend

Deep Deuce

The Harrowing of Dorchester

Confidential

Shooting Star

Sister Elvis

Pacific Coast Highway

Spicy Detective

Riding with the King

The Great Awakening

Last Seen

Hollywood & God

Shame

Notes

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