Jill Robinson Nancy Lynn Schwartz - Essay

Nancy Lynn Schwartz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Hollywood is both a small town and a magical kingdom," remarks an actor in Jill Robinson's novel Perdido. And it is precisely this tension, this contradiction between daily life and larger than life, which makes this Hollywood novel so interesting. It is hardly the steamy fan-mag roman-à-clef or the explicit memoir one might expect from the daughter of a one-time studio chief [Jill Robinson is the daughter of Dore Schary]. Rather, it's part Our Town and part epic, with Hollywood as the backdrop for an often haunting story of a young woman's search for her father.

The heroine is Susanna Howard, granddaughter of one of movieland's founding fathers, who lives with her extended, dynastic family in one of those mansions Hollywood's immigrant pioneers built, a sprawling American Versailles called "Perdido." Susanna's small adolescent obsessions are magnified against the opulent background of movieland aristocracy. (p. 473)

The best thing about Robinson's depiction of family life in a patriarchal kingdom is her illumination of the women in Hollywood: mothers, wives and daughters of actors, directors, producers, writers. The book conveys a perceptive vision of this distaff network of life-supporting appendages and indicates that the women are, for myriad reasons, the survivors, defying the beauty ethic that would seemingly make them this town's first casualties.

The epic, rather tragic...

(The entire section is 532 words.)