Linara writes in with a question about Christopher Isherwood’s classic, Prater Violet:What does the title Prater Violet imply? what is Prater Violet?The Prater is a large public park in Vienna that contains amusement park rides, a planetarium and other attractions. (Learn more about The Prater here) The book Prater Violet is about the filming of a fictional musical of the same name which is set in the Vienna Prater. The novel is a stinging satire of Hollywood which places the vapid melodrama of the musical against the backdrop of the real world tragedy of the encroaching Nazi menace in Austria in the 1930s. As was typical of Isherwood, he based one of the characters in the book, a young screenwriter, on himself. If anyone else knows more about Prater Violet please leave a comment.
Sara wrote in looking for a specific Hollywood-related novel:I found a link to your site about books relating to Hollywood. I need to buy a gift and can’t remember the title of a recently published fiction book about screenwriting and Hollywood… wondered if you could steer me in the right direction. Interesting site; glad to have found it through google.Glad you found The Millions, Sara. After I received Sara’s question, I immediately thought of a new novel by David Freeman called It’s All True (an exchange of emails confirmed that this was correct) because the book store where I work had just hosted a signing of his new book. Freeman is a “reformed screenwriter,” and his novel about an aging world-weary scribe has been better received than most novels that use Hollywood as a backdrop. The question made me wonder if there are any other notable novels with screenwriter protagonists. I feel like I’m probably missing some notable titles, but I was able to find a couple that sound interesting. Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood. Here’s the description: “Originally published in 1945, Prater Violet is a stingingly satirical novel about the film industry. It centers around the production of the vacuous fictional melodrama Prater Violet, set in nineteenth-century Vienna, providing ironic counterpoint to tragic events as Hitler annexes the real Vienna of the 1930s. The novel features the vivid portraits of imperious, passionate, and witty Austrian director Friedrich Bergmann and his disciple, a genial young screenwriter — the fictionalized Christopher Isherwood.” The other one that caught my eye is a later work by Ray Bradbury called Death Is a Lonely Business. It is an interesting foray into noir with a supernatural twist. I also, in thinking about this question, couldn’t help but recall one of my all time favorite movies, Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard about a struggling screenwriter who becomes the kept man of an aging, and increasingly delusional, Hollywood starlet.