In a rundown Los Angeles apartment building—the titular Starlite Terrace—Patrick Roth unfurls the tragic linked stories of Rex, Moss, Gary and June, four neighbors, in a sort of burlesque of the Hollywood modern. In each of their singular collisions with fame, Roth’s dark prose presages a universal and mythical fate of desperation.
In “The Man at Noah’s Window,” Rex shares the story of his father, a supposed hand double for Gary Cooper in High Noon. In “Eclipse of the Sun,” Moss, who lives in fear of the next holocaust, awaits a visit from the long-lost daughter he has tracked down. In “Rider on the Storm,” Gary, a rock drummer and born-again Christian, who “almost played” on the Turtles’ 60s-hit “Happy Together,” strives to find escape from his personal guilt. And in “The Woman in the Sea of Stars,” June, a former Hollywood studio secretary whose husband once cheated on her with Marilyn Monroe, makes the best of a disconnected life until she emerges reborn through ashes strewn in the illuminated swimming pool of the Starlite Terrace.
In each of these four tales of wanna-bes and almost-weres, Roth's L.A. portraits unfold in rare style, and, in Krishna Winston’s masterful translation, the hopeless, loveless perversion of an Ed Ruscha-inspired California becomes a compelling pageant of all-American grotesques that is not to be missed.
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