Monday, April 18, 2016

"I Should Have Stayed Home" by Horace McCoy

"I Should Have Stayed Home" by Horace McCoy

There is really no such thing as a bad Hollywood or noir novel.   If it's well-written, and tells the tale, it rarely fails.  For me, there are usually the exceptional and then there is the enjoyable.  "I Should Have Stayed Home" is very enjoyable, but clearly to me, not exceptional.  The novel was originally published in 1938, and it does capture that moment in time, with respect to how people see the movie world.  Everything else in the world was shit, yet the images of the cinema world were like medicine for those who were spiritually ill or suffering from the effects of the great depression.   McCoy's novel clearly expresses his time, but yet for me, it lacks poetry, which makes a noir novel great.

The story is about a farm boy who comes to Hollywood to become, not an actor, but a star.  He lives with Mona, who is also an star-want-to-be, but is also quite realistic in her chances in becoming such a professional.   On the other hand, Ralph, is quite blind to the world around him, and therefore is an innocent floating in the shit that was / is Hollywood.  In the hands of someone like David Goodis, this would have been a trip to the underworld, but McCoy to me, is almost a nay-nay person, wagging his finger towards the Hollywood climate. 

There are those who are in, and those outside the Hollywood system or factory.  There is a political element, in that it is a world that exploits its people, and I sense McCoy is of that thinking that the system is pretty horrible.   There is a strong message that Hollywood is very much of an opium to the great population out there.  This may be the case, but it is also like any other business that produces goods for the population, and to be fair to McCoy, I think he conveys that very well.   The problem I have with the book is that I find Ralph a huge bore.  I kind of hate him, because he's so simple, and on top of that, he's a southern racist. He's a little lamb who lost his way, and he lost in a damned world.  

He does come upon good people - for instance Mona, but also one of the producers, who is actually very kind in letting him know that he will never ever make it in Hollywood.  Ralph, due to his (stupid) nature, cannot accept that fact.  I think reading this novel has to be a total experience than if I actually read the book in 1938.  The mind-set of the readers at the time, were going through harsh times, so the promise of a "Hollywood" must have been a given thing or the end of that rainbow, which promises a greater future.  McCoy pops that balloon.  For me, "Dirty Eddie" by Ludwig Bremlmans is a much better book on Hollywood morals and decadence.  Yet, this is a wonderful read, but just not essential for me, with respect to the "Hollywood" novel. 

- Tosh Berman

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