Friday, October 24, 2014

Homeless in Hollywood Book Review

*****Spoiler Alert*****
Homeless in Hollywood by Jim Alexander Rice is an account of the author’s single-minded determination to break in to the business as an actor/scriptwriter. Over a two to three year period, the main character (author) lives hand-to-mouth on a Hollywood filming studio, dodging guards while trying to gain employment and a movie deal. It is inspiring and a bit scary at times. As much as I would like to be a best-selling writer, I have not felt the passion for it as the author so obviously has.

The story was easy to read and follow. The danger and suspense of the constant threat of discovery brings an emotional draw to the tale. At times the extreme differences between the people who worked at or were stars of the Hollywood studios compared with the number of homeless people “living” just beyond its walls seems surreal. Why is there such a disparity? The author’s account feels like a fairy tale when he crashes studio parties and rubs elbows with the rich and famous; and a horror story when he’s sleeping on a catwalk with only a pilfered donut to eat for the week.

I read the book through to a point just past the middle, but then I skipped to the end. The reason for this is that about at that point, the story loses momentum. The detailed description of the day-to-day struggle became a bit repetitious and tedious. I was not getting any new information about the situation and so I did skip the parts between about page 140 and when the main character (author) is actually apprehended for trespassing.

There is not a classic "happy ending" for the main character.  However, insights and reflections on being homeless and having an unsurpassed passion for a dream/goal give the reader much to consider in the end.

Rating 3.5/4


UPDATE: Homeless in Hollywood is non-fiction. It is the true account of one man's struggle and sacrifice to achieve his dream/goal of becoming an actor and screenwriter. I read Homeless in Hollywood word for word up to about page 140. As the the text began to repeat itself, I skipped ahead to a point where the narrative no longer took place on the movie studio lot and where the author suffered the repercussions of trespassing on the lot for 3+ years. During the author's time on the lot, there were many instances where gaining food was scarce. I did not mean to infer that he only ate ONE donut a week. There were many times he had plenty to eat while attending parties or from food set up for actors and extras during filming of shows, etc.  The point I was trying to convey was that food was scarce on many occasions especially when there weren't any productions going on. Period. Please chalk that up to me being in a hurry and my not wanting to give away too much information about the events of the book.

When I use the word surreal in my review, it is that at one particular studio party that the author crashes, he drinks heavily and the description of the event is like a pleasant dream (fairy tale). I apologize to my readers if this image I had in my head did not come through in my review. And incidentally, by "horror story" I meant that I was disheartened by the thought of someone having to sleep out of doors and wondering if they'll make it through the night. That thought is just horrible to me and I pray for those homeless and those losing their home especially in the recent housing crisis.

It was a very descriptive narrative that at places draws you into the author's life. However, there are many places that the moment-by-moment description pops the reader right out of the book. There is often too much detail. I have read biographies that have read like reports and biographies that read like prime-time TV drama. But part of the art of writing is to engage the reader, even if it is based on fact. Parts of the book did not engage me so I gave it 3.5 out of 5. Please forgive my typo. Since I could not give it 3.5, I gave it a 3 because being engaged in someone's narrative is important for enjoyment. And ratings are just that, an opinion on the enjoyment level.

I hope this clears up any confusion. I welcome criticism and discussion.

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