West of Eden

West of Eden

An American Place

Book - 2016
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"An epic, mesmerizing oral history of Hollywood and Los Angeles by the author of the contemporary classic Edie; Jean Stein influenced the art of oral history in her groundbreaking book Edie : American Girl, an indelible portrait of Andy Warhol 'superstar' Edie Sedgwick. Now, in West of Eden, Stein turns her lens toward the city Sedgwick came from--Los Angeles--and a mythic cast of fortune hunters and aspiring moguls whose quests for fame and power destroyed many along the way. West of Eden, a work of history both grand in scale and intimate in detail, tells the stories of five larger-than-life individuals and their families, each one representing different aspects of Los Angeles and the American dream. There is Edward Doheny, the Wisconsin-born oil tycoon whose corruption ruins the reputation of a United States president and leads to his own son's violent death. Jack Warner, the son of Jewish Polish immigrants, joins with his brothers to found one of the world's most iconic film studios. Jane Garland, the troubled daughter of an aspiring actress, can never escape her mother's schemes. Jennifer Jones, a young actress from Oklahoma, wins an Academy Award at twenty-five but struggles with despair despite her fame and glamour. Finally, Stein chronicles the ascent of her own father, Jules Stein, an eye doctor born in Indiana who transforms Hollywood with the creation of an unrivaled agency and studio. These chapters paint a panoramic picture of outsiders pinning their hopes on Los Angeles--then watching as the shadow of those dreams envelopes their loved ones, especially their children, and the city itself. Decades in the making, West of Eden depicts a land of absurdity and treachery in the tradition of Raymond Chandler, Nathanael West, and Joan Didion. As she did in Edie, Stein weaves the personal recollections of hundreds of people into an astonishing tapestry of voices telling the saga of a place like no other. Advance praise for West of Eden: 'In times past, in an effort to capture the edge and feel of Hollywood during its golden age of glamour and noir, Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Carey McWilliams, and Joan Didion stretched language and genre to their limits. Jean Stein and West of Eden belong in this company'--Kevin Starr, former California State Librarian and author of California : A History"--
Publisher: New York : Random House, ©2016.
ISBN: 9780812998405
Characteristics: xiii, 334 pages :,illustrations, portraits ;,25 cm.

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brigpa1
Jul 11, 2017

I listened to the audiobook and thought it was quite an interesting account of actual historical events and people. I must say that, in spite of their power, wealth and celebrity and their ability to spend a month in Europe then fly to NY for a party before jetting back to CA, their lives were remarkable empty.

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xiaojunbpl12
Jul 29, 2016

Without knowing most interviewees and referring to biographical notes, I was able to visualize vivid pictures spanning >3 generations for each major figure the book focuses on. The author (only an editor as needed here) doesn't express her opinions, my fragmented impressions still come up with coherent historical accounts. It's an interesting and clever way to write a book, less creative though, access to large rich resources is a must.
If one isn't interested in Hollywood (good and bad) and aftermath of money & power gained, don't bother.

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