Pandaemonium: A Novel

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9780312156220: Pandaemonium: A Novel

A collection of moguls, agents, directors, starlets, writers, gossip columnists, and a great film director named Rudolf Von Beckmann, all of whom converge on a small town to make a film

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Review:

Pandaemonium was John Milton's invention, the capital of Hell where one of literature's great antiheroes, Satan, ruled his mob of fallen angels. Pandaemonium is Leslie Epstein's invention, a fevered mix of highbrow literary references wrapped in lowbrow comedy, a place where Hollywood directors mingle with German dictators, resulting in--well, you know. The novel's narrators are pulled straight from Hollywood history; the first, actor Peter Lorre, relates the events surrounding a performance of Antigone scheduled to be staged in Salzburg shortly before the Anschluss. Lorre, cast as Antigone's groom opposite the alluring Magda Mezaray, hopes this performance will release him from the string of B movies in which he starred as Japanese detective Mr. Moto. His hopes are dashed when the play is interrupted by an assassination attempt on one of the spectators, Adolph Hitler himself. The play's director, Rudolph Von Beckmann, is held responsible and taken to Vienna to explain things to Joseph Goebbels.

Pandaemonium then returns to Hollywood where, upon his return from an internment camp in Europe, Von Beckmann's plans to make a great Western become inextricably tangled with labyrinthine studio politics and Lorre's attempts to shed his association with Mr. Moto. The second narrator, gossip columnist Louella Parsons, takes up the tale, chronicling Lorre and Von Beckmann's return to Europe in search of Magda. By the time Epstein reaches the filming of Von Beckmann's Western, his fictional landscape resembles Milton's Hell very closely indeed. Pandaemonium is funny, ambitious, and makes for wickedly good reading.

About the Author:

Leslie Epstein directs the creative writing program at Boston University.

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