Friday, April 25, 2008

The Cutting Room by Laurence Klavan

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Ex Libris Reviews. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that simply screams out to a reader, "I was made for you!" Recently, I heard that clarion call from The Cutting Room, written by Laurence Klavan, winner of both the Edgar Allan Poe Award (for Mrs. White, written under the pseudonym Margaret Tracy) and the Obie Award (for his musical based on the classic film Bed and Sofa).

I read the blurb on the back and felt as if I were home (even though I was standing in a train station bookstore). Anyone who likes mysteries and movies — especially Orson Welles — will be taken away by The Cutting Room to a land of murder and film trivia as amateur gumshoe and "trivial man" Roy Milano pursues the long-lost original two-hour cut of The Magnificent Ambersons.

Roy Milano lives in a unique circle. He spends his days amassing and distributing movie trivia, mostly through his newsletter, Trivial Man. His friends, such as they are, are also in the "business". And, though she couldn't stand it when his focus was more on films than her, his ex-wife Jody still calls him when she needs to identify someone in a old movie.

Somehow, Klavan makes Roy's life seems pitiable and enviable at the same time. Perhaps an outsider would see it as pathetic, and Roy is a self-described "loser," but I immediately identified with the protagonist (though I have been able to come out of my shell enough to maintain a happy marriage, which, in that way, makes us more like the Kripps, another couple in the novel).

The Cutting Room is a pure joyride. Milano travels to New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Barcelona in pursuit of the film, finding out information about Welles along the way, as well as trying to fight his way out of harm's way.

There is a good amount of disbelief to be suspended, but going along with the idea is more than rewarding. It's fluff, but in the best way. And any character who recites Oscar winners in chronological order to calm himself is one that I'll be standing by. I'm already looking forward to the next one: The Shooting Script.

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