Jill Robinson Pearl K. Bell - Essay

Pearl K. Bell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The liveliest moments in this very uneven novel ["Perdido"] are firmly rooted in Jill Robinson's abundant insider's lore of Hollywood opulence and vulgarity and the protective astigmatism that habitually blurred the line between projection-room fictions and unglamorous realities, such as blacklisting, television and box-office clinkers. (pp. 11, 45)

But it is one thing to have been reared in that phantasmagoric hothouse, to possess such an unweeded surfeit of scenes and plots and musical themes from hundreds of movies, and another to convert all this authentic detail into a serious novel. In the first half of "Perdido," Jill Robinson establishes her credentials for writing about pre-television Hollywood with witty intelligence, skewering its absurdities and artifice, its cutthroat anxieties about money and fame and power. But when she moves on to the story department, the tenacious grip of old movies proves stronger than literary originality, and she settles for a weary B-movie scenario that would have been a dud property 30 years ago….

The harder Susanna runs [in search of her true father], the less Jill Robinson seems willing to bother with any irritating complexities of character, feeling, motive and experience. Indeed, she abandons Hollywood, the novel's indispensable locus, for so long that by the time Susanna defeatedly returns to Southern California, the popcorn and the patience have run out. Little that...

(The entire section is 558 words.)