cover image Hollywood & Hardwood

Hollywood & Hardwood

Tricia Bauer. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $22.95 (182pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-26-2

Lou, a playwright, and Renata, an actress, meet and fall almost immediately in love at summer stock in Vermont. Against the cynical wagers of friends and family, but in a dream of love and matching ambitions, they marry. Nine years later, they are still working hard in New York at their crafts (and trying to escape their crushingly blue-collar backgrounds). Each chapter of Bauer's affecting second novel (after Boondocking and her well-reviewed short-story collection, Working Women and Other Stories) chronologically advances their story, some events related from Lou's point of view, some from Ren's, yet each chapter stands alone like a finely etched short story, economically recounting the episodes that shape them. Bauer skillfully observes Lou's first successful off-Broadway play and the breathlessly rave reviews; a visit from Ren's coarse parents and her more appealing brother; an anticipated dinner party with the couple's oldest friends, clogged with envy after Lou's stage success has earned him a screenplay contract; a Hollywood fete for Lou; and, later, a portrait of Hollywood screenwriters on the downslope. Bauer's prose flexes with the narrative muscle of a veteran author. During Lou and Ren's idealistic early years, she adopts a yearning, poetic tone, and when the couple find themselves scrambling for odd jobs at midlife, Bauer smoothly and affectionately comes down to earth. Bauer sustains the reader's uncertainty as to whether the sharp twists in their precarious careers will sink Ren and Lou's tenacious passions or whether they will salvage hope and stay together. The real delight here, however, is Bauer's graceful and tender exploration of two people with extraordinary dreams finding happiness in plain, ordinary ways. (Apr.) FYI: Boondocking will be issued in paperback by St. Martin's in April.