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Book Details

Title:   Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Author:   Quentin Tarantino
Times Read:   1
Last Read:   08.11.21

Other Books Read By This Author (0)

Notes History
Date Read Note
08.11.21 This is a "novelization" of the movie written by the guy who wrote and directed the movie. In typical Tarantino fashion, he brings back another extinct artifact of when movie-going was much bigger business and definitely shows his love in terms of the formatting and design of the book itself. I don't think I ever read a novelization (unless you count 2001) but I definitely remember them being around back in the day and understood the reference. However, I don't think that's what he actually did here. My understanding of novelizations is that they were basically replaced by publishing the script: some writer-for-hire would get the shooting script and bang out a prose version while the movie was being made so that it could capitalize on its release. So the draw for a superfan might be getting tidbits that might have been altered or changed during the film's production and editing. And that continues to be a fun exercise, which I've done a few times by reading the scripts before or after seeing the finished product. But what I read in between the covers of this book is nothing like that. It's a bizarre deconstruction of the movie into almost disparate elements chapter by chapter, some of which stand alone as anecdotal fragments while others attempt to string along a narrative of Rick Dalton working on this western called Lancer. Not only does it go into more detail about who the actors playing roles are but also what the show itself is about. It's a completely different vibe and a completely different structure from the movie. I didn't love it. I thought the actual prose was pretty poor, and it took me quite a while to come to terms with what the book was doing. At first I kinda saw it as an expanded version of the movie but the book neglects or de-prioritizes many of the film's strongest moments. So then I thought maybe it was something similar to deleted scenes of the movie as a companion to it, but that didn't work either because each chapter kind of steps on others like you're circling around and around the story without ever getting to it. But then finally I came up with what a theory that makes the book make sense for me. I think each chapter is something that Quentin wrote for himself while thinking about the script, then kept in mind when he wrote his first draft of the screenplay. And now, after the film is released, he's gone back and collected them then called it a book. So it's kind of like textual "concept art" for the movie. Which is fine. I mean, he can do whatever he wants to do, but I don't think it works as a novel. I thought it was a pretty tough read and can't imagine it making any sense to anyone who didn't see the movie. For a while I thought he was deliberately ape-ing a style to give it that cheap pulpy dime-store feel, but I'm now convinced that it's just not good. All that said, there is some good stuff in here. It clearly shows how much Tarantino knows about the Hollywood of 1960s. And not just the hits that float up through history to remain relevant but EVERYTHING, which is definitely one of his talents. So that's fun. I've read that his second book in this 2-book deal is going to be explicitly film criticism which should work a lot better for me. Anything involving that kind of thing is great, but it's all wrapped in these characters which do not really stand out on the page like they do on the screen. Even the dialogue - usually a strong point for QT - reads kind of clunky and all in the same voice. Anyway, I'm pretty disappointed by this. Due to how slowly I read and how conservative I am with sticking to authors I know I like, I don't read a bad book that often. Hopefully the next one's better.



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