Cover image for Wayfaring at Waverly in Silver Lake
Wayfaring at Waverly in Silver Lake
McCourt, James, 1941-
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First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf, 2002.
Physical Description:
322 pages ; 22 cm
Wayfaring at Waverly in Silver Lake (Pride) -- In Tir na nOg (Covetousness) -- Principal photography (Lust) -- Ensenada (Anger) -- New York lit up that way at night (Envy) -- A plethora (Gluttony) -- Driven woman (Sloth)
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The beyond-great Hollywood star returns in seven pyrotechnic tales that become--somehow--a family saga spread over seventeen years. Wayfaring at Waverly in Silver Lake encompasses friends, relations, and some passersby--as James McCourt cocks a cast eye on the seven deadly sins. Some samples . . . In a story evoking pride, fountainhead of the other deadly sins, Hollywood star Kaye Wayfaring, semiretired now atop the Silver Lake Hills, like Marion Davis at San Simeon, is at home during the 1984 Olympics, contemplating the translucent Norma Jean ("Nobody ever went at lines the way she did"), while over at the studio, her colleagues review the highlights of her career, culminating in her scandalous, headline-grabbing Oscar snub. Lust is represented by Kaye, now back in business on location in Ireland, starring as the wanton Irish pirate queen, Granuaile. Kaye is sheathed in the part, waiting for the light, in County Donegal, balancing visions of sacred and profane love, during the first (and always lustful) day of principal photography. Gluttony is personified by Kaye Wayfaring's son, Tristan, in the throes of adolescent meltdown, telling his beloved uncle the demented tale of his cross-country bus trip, forced landing, and rescue by south-of-L.A. beach bums, as he floats in and out of consciousness. And sin itself, as in "sinfully delicious," is exemplified by James McCourt's new book, Wayfaring at Waverly in Silver Lake, from beginning to end.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

After skewering Clinton-era Washington in Delancey's Way (2000), McCourt, stylistically rambunctious and metaphysically inclined, descends on 1980s Hollywood and rejoins diva Mawrdew Czgowchwz (the subject of his first novel) and movie star Kaye Wayfaring, Mawrdew's daughter-in-law, mother of twins, and the focus of an earlier short story collection. In this set of interlocking tales, each a droll riff on one of the seven deadly sins, Kaye, who misses her dear, departed friend, Marilyn Monroe, has just flummoxed everyone by appearing in a wildly successful rock video and is now working on a movie about an Irish pirate queen. Such story elements are deeply embedded within a fizzing hubbub of witty conversations spiked with Hollywood trivia and mysticism that morphs into jousts, reminiscences, and philosophical disputations to form a scintillating montage not unlike those of novelist Paul West. As for McCourt, all his canniness and irony can't conceal his love for Hollywood and its obsessions. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

McCourt's latest collection, though funny and smart enough for two books, falls short of gratification. It revisits the life of Kaye Wayfaring, an aging movie star (and recurring character in McCourt's work) who lives in Los Angeles's tony Silver Lake neighborhood. Wayfaring's true career is a thing of the past, but she still appears in music videos and popular movies. These seven tales all chronicle some form of inner epiphany, each one bound up with one of the seven deadly sins. The stories are largely composed of highly poeticized dialogue, in which characters speak in cutting witticisms about movie stars, religious movements, philosophy, politics and an all-you-can-eat buffet of other subjects. McCourt's perpetual speculation is intellectually engaging, but the book lacks the force of his earlier work the stories' inner discoveries are not monumental enough to fully take hold. In the title story, focusing on Pride, Wayfaring watches a house next door slowly being torn down as she reflects on how a lost nomination for an Oscar dealt a blow to her career. "In Tir na nOg (Covetousness)" reveals Wayfaring gorging on chocolates, trying to forget that she will never be as charming as "Norma Jean." In "Ense$ada (Anger)," Wayfaring goes to a costume party dressed as an Irish war goddess with three heads and then tears a Marilyn Monroe mask off another partygoer and tosses it into a fireplace. The explosions that occur in this collection are Chekhovian in their subtlety, masked in a layer of craft so thick that it is often hard to see what lies beneath. (July 9) Forecast: Sales may rise if booksellers display this collection alongside McCourt's first novel, Mawrdew Czgowchwz (reissued earlier this year by the New York Review of Books Classics). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



As out beyond long tinted windows Los Angeles lay gleaming in the bright air, while in the studio commissary the televised women's Olympic marathon neared culmination on the multiscreen background wall, Leland de Longpré, Hyperion Pictures' controversial new chief of concept evolution, was speaking words of caution and concern to the chief of publicity over lunch. "Vanity of vanity, all--" "But I didn't say 'vanity,' " the chief of publicity, purposedly attuned to words, objected. "I said 'pride.' And please don't tell me they're the same thing, because even if I don't know exactly what vanity is, I do know what I think it isn't." "True enough," the strategist allowed (managing, his lunch partner thought, to sound both affirmative and not). "The Dodgers, it must be said, brought to Los Angeles a cohesive focus, enforcing a civic pride that had never been provided by the self-serving motion-picture industry. I've even heard it said the Dodgers in effect brought to bear on their adopted city the mysterious assimilative pride of Brooklyn--never to be confused with the exploitive vanity of Manhattan--thus creating, principally, but not entirely, through the Jewish factor, the atmosphere for the construction of a new civilization in what had been a desert." "As a matter of fact," the publicist continued, boldly staking out his own territory, conceptually speaking, "whenever I've heard the word--'vanity'--all I've thought of really is a piece of set decoration--one of those boudoir units with big round deco mirrors. Jean Harlow had one in Dinner at Eight ." "It would seem clear," Leland continued, relentlessly, "that vanity is not, all said and done, to be confused with devotional intensity. Devotional intensity is not vain; quite the opposite." "Faulkner," the publicist offered, "says a character in a book must be consistent in all things, while actual man is consistent in one thing only: he is consistently vain. His vanity alone keeps his particles damp and adhering to one another, instead of like any other handful of dust which any wind that passes can disseminate." "Faulkner gave the industry much more trouble than he was worth. Well, in all events, whatever vanity is, you can't chastise it anymore; people are proud of it." The publicist nodded congenially. "Los Angeles certainly is. Did you read Bunny Mars today in the Herald-Examiner , welcoming the women over there on the wall to their marathon?" "I'm afraid not. So, you're a Bunny Mars enthusiast. So is my lovely wife, talking of women and marathons." "I read Bunny Mars faithfully every day." "You know your job." "Bunny Mars," the publicist insisted, "is currently the most out-there journalist in Los Angeles. Get this," he advised, opening up the newspaper that had been lying folded between them. " 'Like Athens, Alexandria, Florence, Paris, Vienna, London, and New York in their day, Los Angeles is at the end of history, the very end-historical hub of those creative energies that resuscitate, refashion, redefine, and reinterpret all consumer drives. " 'Los Angeles is the home of ideated decoration. It trades and cares for as well as cheats, steals, murders, exploits, and lies. It is modern media culture. Los Angeles is America's other-world city. The city of eternity. The only city in the world that issues blanket permission for self-scripting. The industry has bequeathed that to us as our rebirthright--satellite-direct time-line redial, darlings, to the Vienna of Freud and Max Ophuls. " 'And so in the age of the face-lift, liposuction, dentistry more expensive than psychoanalysis, bionic life-extension more expensive than both put together, miracle cosmetic surgery, and forty-, fifty-, and sixty-year Hollywood careers--appearance careers, that is--Los Angeles vouchsafes unto you these tidings. Keep them in mind, all you strong-worldwide women, when the running-jumping-javelin-shot-put days are over: a face-lift is forever, in the sense that you will always have looked better than if not. " 'After all, only when in technology body and image so interpenetrate that all revolutionary tension becomes bodily-collective-innervation bent on revolutionary discharge, has reality transcended itself to the extent demanded by Adrian and Perc Westmore. " 'You are made in the image and likeness of God--where is it written that on that account you are required to decline from a vision of gorgeous glory to a necessary cadaver at the very same efficient and deadening pace with which a regulation three-act Hollywood script accomplishes its terrible mission? Heed the words of one rhapsode of Los Angeles: There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to Malibu. Ride that tide high--on endorphins, on glamour, on the Ventura Freeway!' " "Interesting," Leland allowed, trying to decide whether or not to consolidate his power further at the studio by sending back the abalone, whose immediate provenance, he divined, was the freezer locker rather than the warmer sands off Catalina. "But what is it exactly you were saying about Wayfaring?" "Her pride's been hurt--she's retired to the alcazar in Silver Lake like Marion Davies did to San Simeon, like Dolores Del Rio did in that Santa Monica palace Cedric Gibbons built for her." "On Wayfaring at Waverly--alcazar indeed! It's a good Schindler house; why the compulsion to exaggerate?" "A good Schindler house," the publicity maven stressed, " 'gloriously proportioned and sympathetically refurbished in anthologized original Southwest, augmented by mixtures of mission, modern, nouveau, and marble-bolection-molding deco, resplendent in its terraced-garden setting atop the Silver Lake hills, and caressed by feng shui.' Bunny Mars again, just last week." Yes, the new executive thought (deciding the abalone must definitely go back--noticing meanwhile as he gestured to a waiter that in the space created by the temporary suspension of the women's marathon, viewers were being offered the distraction of an interlude feature, the cunning fuchsia-haired Beverly Hills astrologer, industry scold, civic activist--"Everything west of Doheny--it's always wise to know your limits"--Astarte. Astarte, a Kaye Wayfaring intimate, was hosting a group of visiting anthropologists from the earth's four corners). Yes, a nice house up on Wayfaring at Waverly. Unlike its principal occupant, it didn't have an enormous amount of curb appeal in today's terms; but if you got into it, it had a number of sturdy features: parquet floors in the entry hall and the bedrooms, tesselated marble elsewhere throughout; the original Tiffany windows; the long mirrors, some of smoke glass; the amethyst Venetian chandeliers in the dining room. Assortments of bergères, fauteuils, Empire divans and modular sectionals, and everywhere you looked, signed photographs in chased silver frames. Then you went out back to the patio looking out over Silver Lake, and with the water running continuously over the lip of the Lautner pool, you couldn't tell where the pool stopped and Silver Lake began. "Yes," he allowed, as the anthropologists began pitching on-the-job impressions of their arduous exploratory week on that edge of the Pacific Rim. "Wayfaring at Waverly is enchanting, all of it--as is the much simpler and more functional Gehry Laguna beach house--but it isn't really an alcazar. Orphrey Whither's pile in Whither Park--now that, mutatis mutandis, is an alcazar." "Yes, agreed--albeit a Regency one." "As befits the regent Orphrey was in glorious days gone by. Nash exterior, Brighton Pavilion pillared-alcove gaga interior, all wrapped around a pool the size of Lake Hollywood. Rex Ingram gave Orphrey very big ideas, and Wallace Neff was only too glad to fulfill them, building for him the very Taj Mahal-ish pile he didn't get to build for the Dohenys. Orphrey for his part has been known to proclaim Whither Park, the result, a source of pride in an uncaring world." "I was never there, but I always think of it as chock full of random crap like the Huntington place in Pasadena." "Really? I've never been in Pasadena." (The subordinate, seriously doubting Leland's sincerity, let the extraordinary declaration pass. Instead of formulating something, anything, by way of a neutral reply, he thought back to a recent discussion with the truly informed and truly formidable, often deceptively chummy Astarte, a fierce protector of everything Wayfaring, concerning the back story of Livonia de Longpré, Leland's considerably older wife, and her pivotal position vis-à-vis the husband's bold ascent to power at Hyperion. "But who was she?" he'd inquired. "Voni," Astarte declared, in a tone expressive of an attempt to avoid the sententious, "was Vonetta Drew--affectionately known in the industry as VD and 'the meanest dame in pictures'--not excepting Beverly Michaels, Bella Darvi, and Ann Savage. Which of course is how all the rumors got started--she was that good at being bad. But as she put it, when it came to really being rotten, 'I think maybe I was finally too vain to actually repel viewers.' " "Bella Darvi!" the publicist erupted. "The Egyptian. 'I ask for nothing,' she murmurs, petting the white Persian cat, 'but if you will give me the deed to your parents' apartment in the House of the Dead, I will show you the perfection of love.' He brings her the deed; she throws him out in the rain. Years later she crawls back to him--now Pharaoh's court physician--covered with leprosy, wrapped loosely in a shroud, like the walking dead, her pride peeling off her clay-colored face. He pities her. It's heaven--and she wasn't even nominated!" "Neither was Kaye Wayfaring for Avenged. But you're wondering about Voni." "Well, yes, I was." "A couple of cuts above Bella Darvi, to say the least, but there are marked similarities. Foxy plotter that she was, she asked for nothing either--or next to it. In campaigning for Leland, a confirmed bachelor many years her junior, she never stooped to lying--outright. And in that smart calculation one may discern both the gauge of her quite remarkable success and Leland's wisdom in not being a man too vain to profit from a spouse's wiles. Voni may come up nowadays on the elevator, but elevators do not--except in the dramatically sudden shift at the very outset from service to customer elevator at Bullocks-Wilshire--fairly represent her climb in this town. "No, Voni has taken the cable car up Bunker Hill, and known the flats well, as well as all the sad little bungalow courts of Hollywood and all the sad, sunny little kitchens in them. But none of that sapped her spirit, an essential product of the East Texas piney wood country, a very determined region." So that was it. Leland for his part was remembering a lunch--his first as a Hyperion high operative--at Whither Park the previous week. Mahi-mahi with steamed cactus, blue tortillas, and a good Pinot Grigio from the Whither vineyards up in Sonoma, goat cheese, figs, Calistoga water, all in the company of his wife and what as it turned out was a group of her old friends, Kaye Wayfaring, Orphrey Whither, kingpin of Hyperion Pictures and veteran director [of Ominous , The Day That Dawns , The Night of the End of Time , Pilgrim Soul , Way Station , We Are Born, We Live, We Die , and Avenged ], Jameson O'Maurigan, poet, actor, playwright, and motion-picture scenarist to Hyperion Pictures, and Astarte, at which the sore topic of Avenged and the arcane production-financing technicalities that supposedly had denied nominations to all involved [though it was generally assumed that irredentist spite had been the chief obstacle] had inevitably come up. "As I've told you all repeatedly," Astarte had proclaimed with ongoing finality, "you polecats were all included out for the time-honored unspoken principles relative to the sanctity of the Hollywood cabala. You simply cannot tweak these folks' collective vanity with certain divulgements. You may have been content with the notion that you were remaking Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne , filmed nearly in its entirety in New York and East Hampton, but do you still not realize any of you what that Elusive Drive-Bronson Canyon sequence was read as an allegory of?" "Dorothy di Frasso and Bugsy Siegel?" Voni de Longpré drawled, as Jameson and Orphrey Whither looked away separately, in two directions, while Kaye Wayfaring wondered was there a use. "There are things," the seer continued, "up with which they simply will not put.") "But," Leland was now remarking, "speaking of Regency--or Brighton--don't miss this television audition. If that apparition isn't something that, did it not exist, your Miss Mars might have found it necessary to invent, you and I are both doing thirsty work in the wrong business." Excerpted from Wayfaring at Waverly in Silver Lake by James McCourt All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.