The Hollywood Novel : An American Literary Genre
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The Hollywood Novel is an American regional fiction genre that treats characters working in the film industry either in Hollywood or with a Hollywood production company on location. Although pre-Hollywood film novels set in the eastern filmmaking capitals flourished as early as 1912, the Hollywood Novel per se first appeared in 1916, after the film companies had nearly completed their move to Hollywood. The genre grew up and developed with the Hollywood film industry, mirroring the rise of powerful moguls, the decline of the studio system, and the advent of location shooting, in the United States and abroad, as well as influential events, public concerns, and fads of the times. From 1916-1963, the genre intersected with other popular literature, creating eight sub-genres of novels: historical, cornie-epistolary, detective, and semi-pornographic--as determined by Carolyn See in 1963--as well as romances, adolescent fiction, religious tracts, and "romans a clef". Many novels within the sub-genres were penned by persons involved with filmmaking. After 1964, novels written by people within the industry and "romans a clef", as well as historical and detective Hollywood Novels, continued to flourish and reflected more contemporary concerns: current politics, including espionage; feminism; alternative life styles, such as homosexuality; and the counter-culture movement. As the studio system waned and foreign cinemas exerted influence, location shooting became commonplace. Hollywood, thus, declined as a picture-making center, and a strong adjunct genre of location and international filmmaking novels developed. In addition, novels which were not about filmmaking and which dealt with the characters' Hollywood experiences peripherally, if at all, became common. The novels' setting--the town of Hollywood--has been overwhelmingly influenced by the film industry and the illusions it produces, so that, as in the movies, anything is possible there, but nothing is as it seems. The symbiotic relationship between the town and the industry is reflected in the novels, the only American regional genre determined by a specific industry. In them, distinctions between illusion and reality collapse, owing to the timelessness, artificiality, physical unconventionality, unusual atmosphere, and the reality/illusion dichotomy at work in Hollywood and the film industry.
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