Max in Hollywood, Baby

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Friday, July 20, 2007
by Maira Kalman

This book is ridiculously fun. I should know, because it chased me around for two weeks until I finally gave up and checked it out. First, it was just sitting innocently on display in the children's picture book section of the library. Cute! -- a dog in a director's chair and the gratuitous use of the word "baby" -- amusing, but not enough. Then it was on the wrong shelf while I was looking for something else. Then it was in a bin in another area (it was published in 1992, how many copies are there???) -- all of this in the Hollywood branch of the library. Clearly, I had to read it before it fell off of a shelf and on to my head! I flipped it open and was immediately charmed. (later that day I went to the park and a brass band (normally not found in the park) was playing Hooray for Hollywood, I kid you not. I hate to think what might have happened if I had NOT read it.)

(birth of an obsession: I cannot rest until I either send or receive a telegram with the word "shillyshallying" included.)

As I was saying, this book is a lot of fun. Max Stravinsky is a poet, a lover, a dog -- soon to be director of his own Hollywood vision. He and his lovely dalmatian bride Crepes Suzette have been called to California by his agent to write and direct a movie. (because all bohemian poet dogs have agents, OF COURSE.) Anyway... it is fun, fun, fun. Max develops a bit of an ego problem while living the life and writing/directing the requested "sugar-smackin, rootin-tootin, high-spy, sci-fi, kissy-kissy, melt-in-your-mouth, madcap musical mystery" and well, you should probably read it and see what happens. (Here's a hint: after the pressures of the business start to get to him, he begins to sound like this: "I want a monogrammed cravat/ That says Stravinsky Thought of That./ I want to pout and rant and rave/ and get everything I crave/ I want to be a celebrity/ Have my pawprints in cement for posterity/ and just when it seems I have all that I adore/ I will graciously implore: I want more I want more I want more.") It's trippy, surreal, and gives a vigorous workout to just about every Hollywood lifestyle cliche imaginable. (well, the ones suitable for kids, anyway.) Kalman has a knack with language (it's very zoomy) and the colors and images are just as vibrant. (be sure to read all of the title page information and dust jacket -- so funny!)

(the whole of this quote is "I'm crazy for movies/ I'm weak at the knees/ English Mysteries,/screwball comedies/ spaghetti westerns/ three bowls please/ it doesn't matter what, it doesn't matter who/ If it's Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers/ It'll absolutely do I worship their allure/ If I'm sick, don't find a cure/ A Hitchcock scream, a Fellini dream/ Film noir, Mel Blanc/ And all that's in between/ Flood my senses/ make me weep/ Kiss the heroine/ Kill the creep/ The credits, the edits/ Houdini! Whodunits!/ Musicals that dance/ and dancicals that muse/ I'm filled with hope watching Cinemascope/ cause I'm no dope/ I love movies.")

I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that it has a satisfactory conclusion and an entertaining argument between Max's yes-man and his yes-man's yes-man about Schopenhauer on the last page.
surpreezes, no?
(words of wisdom from my new favorite illustrated secondary character, Ferrrnando Extra Debonnaire.)

Now I must look into Max's other adventures ( Ooh-La-La (Max in Love), Max Makes a Million) and the rest of Kalman's books. If you are going to be chased around the library by an illustrated children's book, this is a delightful way to go.
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