A new interview with alumni Matthew Specktor (fiction, ’09), discussing his novel American Dream Machine, appears on The Rumpus:
The Rumpus: One of the things that I love
about American Dream Machine is that it’s
not starstruck. It is not an L.A. novel that’s
enchanted with the silver screen or the
curious imaginary life that L.A. seems to
Matthew Specktor: Definitely not.
One of the things that made this book
a particularchallenge was that I have
very mixed feelings about the movie
business, and about Los Angeles in general. Usually when people say they
have mixed feelings about something, it’s a sort of euphemistic way of saying
they hate it. And the truth is, in certain respects I do. I do have complicated
feelings about Hollywood, but I also have tremendously affectionate ones. It
was a question of how to combine those things. Ambivalence tends to make
Rumpus: I have to say, reading your book, I left my comfort zone a little bit.
Because I realized I hardly ever read books by men or about men.
Specktor: I was very aware as I started writing it, I thought, wow, this book
is really dude-heavy. And I realized I’d just have to surrender to that for a
while. There’s a moment about two-thirds of the way through where the
narrative consciousness aligns finally with a woman’s point of view, that of
Emily White, and I was so happy to have gotten there! I thought, finally there’s
a woman who can just come in and take over. (Laughter) I was so happy about
it at first that that section of the book was incredibly long. In the earlier drafts
it was basically a novel, almost 200 pages unto itself.
Rumpus: Maybe Emily needs her own spin off novel.
Specktor: She may. I cut that section down because readers kept telling me
they wanted to get back to the main thread.
Rumpus: But you were like, “I just want a lady in there!”
Specktor: I know! I did! One of the things that interests me about adapting
the book for television is the opportunity for expansion there. Some of the
female characters who appear throughout the book, like Rachel and Ren Myer
(Nate’s mom) don’t get as much room as they might, because that’s not where
the narrative focus is. I hope to make up for that a little with the series. A lot of
my literary models for this book in particular were very masculine. Philip Roth,
Saul Bellow, James Salter, Denis Johnson. (Then again, so many of my all time
literary heroes are women: Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Paula Fox and Shirley
Hazzard, to name a few.) But I felt perfectly comfortable allowing this book to
be that way. It’s not, unto itself, a sin.