San Remo Drive

San Remo Drive

A Novel From Memory

Book - 2003
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Random House, Inc.
Leslie Epstein's new novel, set in Los Angeles in the 1950s and then, in a long final section, in 2000, depicts the Jacobis, the family of a famous film writer and director. Their story is told by Richard Jacobi, elder son, at the summit of his career as a painter. In five extended narratives, the novel traces the trajectory of Richard's self-awareness as he comes to terms with the death of his principled father and its lasting effects on his mother, brother, and himself. At the same time, the novel meditates on the status of Jews and African-Americans in the U.S. after World War II, and beautifully evokes the landscape of Southern California in its last days before the migration to it of millions.

Richard's reflections betray no nostalgia, but record forthrightly his feelings for a region and the people close to him. We see him on his living room floor watching, on a brand-new 1952 Zenith television, the broadcast of his father testifying before the House Committee on un-American Activities, at the beach in Malibu sizing up a French poseur in pursuit of his mother and her money, and on a trip with his brother and friends to a bar and brothel in Mexico. Through his sensitive discernment, the novel’s stories build until one moment crystallizes all that has come before.

In this novel, Leslie Epstein has revealed his past through the lens of his art. Like an American Proust, he shows how memory shapes the crucial events of a life.

Baker & Taylor
Depicts a Los Angeles family during the 1950s and in 2000 from the perspective of the eldest son, who articulates the past through memories of his Hollywood family and of the Californian political, social, and physical landscape.

Blackwell North Amer
Leslie Epstein's new novel is composed of five interrelated episodes, in each of which a germ of childhood experience is elaborated by the mature imagination of one of this country's most distinguished writers of fiction. Richard Jacobi, the narrator of these reflections, invites us to revisit the crucial experiences of his youth: driving to Malibu to meet the man determined to marry his mother; on vacation in the Mohave, while his father, the famed Hollywood figure Norman Jacobi and Lotte, his mother, must deal with the terrible consequences of Norman's testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities; exploring how a night in a bar and brothel in Tijuana becomes linked to the spiritual growth of his brother, Bartie, who is surely destined to be one of the most memorable and endearing characters in modern literature; viewing a precarious initiation into sexuality that will mark forever the way an artist sees the world and does his work.
The Jacobi family of the 1950s, however, is only part of this novel. A half-century later, at the new millennium, Richard has moved back to the same great house on San Remo Drive in which he spent his adolescence. Of course he seeks to re-create that past of sunshine and lemon groves and innocence; of 78 rpm records, artistic freedom, and all the "early sorrows and many joys" before his family's tragic dissolution. But perhaps the greater task for the adult Richard is simply to lead a decent life, now that he is a famous painter and the head of a new family that is about to face an inescapable tragedy of its own.
San Remo Drive is a novel of many dimensions. It is a large, public book that explores the glamorous life of Hollywood and evokes the landscape of Southern California both as it is now and as it appeared before the migration to it of millions. It is also a personal book, one that traces the trajectory of Richard Jacobi's consciousness as son, brother, husband, lover, and painter.

Publisher: New York : Handsel Books, c2003
ISBN: 9781590510667
Characteristics: 238 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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