Quick Review: WAITING FOR LIPCHITZ AT CHATEAU MARMONT by Aris Janigian (Rare Bird Books)

JanigianA-WaitingForLipchitzSomeone does not like Hollywood/Los Angeles culture and society…

Set in two iconic locales — Hollywood’s legendary Chateau Marmont and luxurious Fresno’s Forestiere’s Underground Garden — Waiting for Lipchitz at Chateau Marmont is a bold and colorful critique of the California Dream through the perspective of a once-upon-a-time successful screenwriter and the wealth that taunts him. Caught between John O’Brien’s Better and, perhaps, a Christopher Guest adaptation of Waiting for Godot, Janigian’s Lipchitz is a new take on the absent protagonist and what’s inevitably illuminated by its void.

This is a strange novel. I enjoyed reading it, but I didn’t love it. There are plenty of interesting and sharp observations about the fickleness and shallowness of Los Angeles and, particularly, Hollywood life, culture and business practices. It’s a well-written novel, but one that I didn’t find as satisfying as I had hoped.

Janigian has written a character who seems to both despise Hollywood culture, while at the same time being drawn to participate. Visiting his friend outside of Tinseltown, his eyes are opened to a whole different California. Yes, one that is slowly being “discovered” by other LA denizens, but one that is far more idyllic than he thought possible. There are signs of change on the horizon (the closed old mall, recently replaced by a mega-mall not far away). The story doesn’t really go anywhere — it’s more a meandering meditation on California, Los Angeles, and so forth. (There are long digressions about the vegetables the protagonist’s friend is growing, for example.) It’s a short novel, but at the same time I felt it might have been overwritten, given what is covered.

An alternative reading of the novel is that Janigian’s protagonist is actually a version of the author: his dislike of Hollywood and Los Angeles is so strong and well-written, one can’t help but think he’s channelling himself (at least a bit).

An interesting read, and very well written novel. However, as I mentioned at the top, ultimately not as satisfying as I had hoped. A cautious recommendation, then.

*

Waiting for Lipchitz at Chateau Marmont is published by Rare Bird Books, and is available in the UK.

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