Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book Review: Sunnyside, by Glen David Gold

Title: Sunnyside
Author: Glen David Gold
Rating: ***1/2
Tags: charlie chaplin, russia, art, world war 1, dogs, movies

Sunnyside is Glen David Gold's second novel. The first, Carter Beats the Devil, was published in 2001. I just recently read Carter and thought it marvelous. It isn't surprising that Gold takes so long to finish a novel... both are big works, in every sense of the word, large in page count and wide-ranging in scope. In Carter, it worked well. Sunnyside is more ambitious, less successful, but a worthy read.

Gold obviously has an epic mind. Both books are set in the early 20th century. The main character in Carter is a magician, Charles Carter. In Sunnyside, the main character is Charlie Chaplin, but there are numerous more-or-less associated plots and characters. One is an aspiring actor, Lee, who winds up as a U.S. military airman in France where he meets the love of his life. Another is a U.S. soldier in Russia. The themes are as wide-ranging as the geography, being the nature of artistic creation, the nature of ambition, and, of course. love, or sometimes what passes for it.

The failure is that there are a lot of fascinating pieces, but they don't add up to one puzzle, so that the book as a whole feels out of control. Which feels strange, because in every piece Gold does seem to be in control, of the characters, the dialog, the emotions, the themes, everything. He is an amazing writer, though I sometimes got tired of certain stories, but I think that was mostly because I wanted more Chaplin.

In my opinion, Sunnyside is a magnificent failure... but one I'm happy to have read. Gold in failing is far more interesting than more successful but less ambitious works.

Publication Knopf (2009), Hardcover, 576 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0307270688 / 9780307270689

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