Walking to Hollywood: Memories of Before the Fall
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In a series of quests exploring his obsessions, Self first reconnects with his childhood friend Sherman Oaks, a man scarcely three-feet-tall. Thirty-five years after parting ways, Sherman has gained attention in the art world for his sculptures: replicas of his body in various proportions, some as tall as buildings and others tiny as a fingernail. With Will’s obsessive-compulsive collection of items and Sherman’s biting temper, they make an oddly endearing and increasingly bizarre pair as they walk in spurts through Canada, New York, and the west coast of the United States. Returning home briefly, Self entangles himself in a mystery and departs for Los Angeles to discover who murdered the movies. Convinced everyone he meets is played by a famous actor, he goes undercover into the dangerous world of celebrity with hilarious consequences. Eventually leaving the deceptive lights of Hollywood, he arrives in Spurn Head, a town on the English shore. When his memory starts to slip away, Self follows clues and notes left behind at more lucid moments leading him through encounters with a madman, a game of checkers with Death, and a meeting with one of Swift’s immortal Struldbruggs.
faceted looks that mirrored my own – including the sunken cheeks, pockmarked with old acne scars.) The man explained how he and his son liked to drive out on a Sunday, through the lush reclaimed lowland of Sunk Island to the peninsula, and how the sense of abandonment and loss they both felt – the family was broken, they were deracinated – was almost pleasurably compounded by Spurn Head itself, where on the eastern flank of the peninsula a Victorian lighthouse stood, surrounded at high tide by
if open to labyrinthine interpretation – that they told him what he should be doing every moment of the day, and exactly how he should be doing it. What was my own life beside such finicky precision? Cack-handed! Anomic! Eton-messy! True, the parchment scrolls of Torah verses were by no means the smallest books in existence,3 but they had the virtue of being fragments of a single work that was all you ever needed to read – if, that is, you believed the universe had been created by a omnipotent
Barbour, appalled to discover yet another pocket – the poacher’s – and unzipping it removed the small corpse of my rolled-up plastic trousers. Leaving Tor-Buff-Chester (a mega-region embracing Toronto that stretches all the way from Buffalo to Quebec City, and has an annual $530 billion of economic activity) was proving more difficult than anticipated. ‘The concert piano and all wind instruments bore me in small doses and flay me in large ones,’ contended Uncle Vladimir – meaning ‘bore’ as in
‘I’m sorry?’ ‘Well, if you’re right and the movies were murdered – not just accidentally killed – then you’re a real slow-moving target. Personally, I think your initial strategy was the right one – be filmed or get drilled. Now how’re you gonna keep safe?’ ‘Tomorrow morning I’m going right into the heart of the machine.’ I stabbed a finger towards the Sony lot. ‘It’s the last place anyone will think of shooting me.’ ‘And then?’ ‘That’s where you come in. Listen.’ I dropped my voice
get dead – even your clients.’ ‘Especially my clients,’ he called back. ‘My clients have a near 100 per cent fatality rate.’ ‘But you don’t let it get to you, do you, Mac?’ ‘I try to maintain a regular disposition.’ He held his hands palm up, the laughter lines creased around his trustworthy brown eyes. ‘What’re you trying to tell me, Mac – that the worst has already happened?’ ‘I figure someone had to, Will: you’re a dead man walking. You’ve been dead since Laurel Canyon.’ ‘Was it the