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Regards: The Selected Nonfiction of John…

Regards: The Selected Nonfiction of John Gregory Dunne

by John Gregory Dunne

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I thoroughly enjoyed this compilation of essays written over the years by John Gregory Dunne, a journalist, novelist, and screen play writer. However, that's because so many of the things he writes about happened at times or in places which I know very well, or are subjects of great interest to me. Even those which were off the beaten track for me were, if not fascinating, at least interesting. As one would expect of articles written between 1965 and 2004, they are dated. However, if one reads them keeping in mind the time in which they were written they come alive and breathe.

I am not now, nor ever have been, interested in Hollywood, actors, or the movies, but I found his essays about the business of screen play writing amazing. I'd never realized how totally crazy the process is, both financially and practically.

I thought that Quebec Zero was one of the most frightening essays I've ever read, not least because I was born and raised about a hundred miles from where it took place.

Having lived in California 40 years I well remember the influence of Caesar Chavez. In fact, in recognition of his contributions, his birthday is a state holiday. Dunne's essay on Chavez was both fascinating and, I think, absolutely correct about Chavez and his legacy. Now I want to read the book he wrote about Chavez.

There are essays about John Kennedy, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Natalie Wood, and others. All are well written, from a different perspective, and gave me a new view of the subject.

I recommend this book as a microcosm of people and parts of the U. S. now gone, but which should not be forgotten. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Oct 15, 2011 |
Pretty dated and bland. I wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but there's not much here.

The movie biz and Cesar Chavez's organization of Chicano grapepickers should be more interesting than these pieces about them.

The several--seemed like *numerous*--long accounts of the journey of one of the couple's screenplays of insignificant movies (A Star is Born, anyone?) are especially boring and windy. One of these accounts might be suitable for an industry pub or, better, a textbook for a film-making class. This is his selected prose? The best after a culling?

Though it seldom stays in my mind long, when I'm reading Joan Didion's reportage from the 1960s and 1970s, it's certainly absorbing. She has the knack for the telling detail that conveys something of the ethos of the time and place. Dunne never did and as he got older, he became more narcisstic and more tedious.

As for screenwriting, he isn't defensive: it's fun. It financed his and Didion's other writing for a couple of years. Great. It didn't hurt Faulkner either. But ... screenwriting meant hundreds of thousands for the first draft, even back in the 1970s, and Didion has had a few successful books. The two of them also must have got substantial compensation when at least two of their novels were made into movies. They seem to have had a ridiculously lavish lifestyle

Even Dunne's brother's society gossip is more readable (though who knows how well it will age?). Regards is not a book you want to be stuck with at an airport. ( )
  Periodista | Mar 16, 2010 |
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No writer captured the tragic absurdity of late-twentieth-century America better than John Gregory Dunne. For over forty years, he cast an unsparing eye on contemporary America, never flinching from the unpleasant truths he saw around him. Whether novels, screenplays, or nonfiction, his work was marked with a droll wit and a pointed cynicism that often examined buried aspects of public and private life in Hollywood and America at large. This book is a celebration of Dunne's best nonfiction, from frank observations on the film industry, politics, sports, and popular culture to tender reflections on what it was like to raise an adopted daughter. The collection spans his entire career, including his depictions of Las Vegas and an L.A. film studio, and essays from both of his existing compilations, as well as the essays from the last fifteen years of his life, never before collected.--From publisher description.… (more)

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