:: Article

The Age of Dreaming

By Alex Gildzen.

Nina Revoyr, The Age of Dreaming, Akashic Books, 2008

We all bring ourselves to a work of art. So indulge me a minute. As a child I learned to love the silent era of filmmaking because of the books of Daniel Blum. I knew all the stars by sight before I’d ever seen their actual films. One of those was Sessue Hayakawa. Of course he was one of the lucky ones who later had an important career in sound films. His role in Bridge on the River Kwai is indelible. After I first saw it, I wrote a haiku in his honor. That Hayakawa remains important to me must be evident by his mention in one of the poems in my most recent book It’s All a Movie.

You’d expect then that I’d adore a novel about him. Well, Revoyr’s new book isn’t completely about Sessue Hayakawa, and there comes my confusion in responding to it.


Revoyr writes well. Look at the hummingbird passage. Delicious. I think most novel readers will delight in this work. If one doesn’t know the history of Hollywood her book may send one to the library in search of the important works of one of her sources, Kevin Brownlow, who has done so much to preserve the history of the silent era.

My problem with The Age of Dreaming may be knowing too much. I know that her leading character, Jun Nakayama, is only suggested by Hayakawa. As I read I kept telling myself “No, that didn’t happen to him.” Or that this part of the story of the William Desmond Taylor murder isn’t accurate. Then I’d tell myself “But this isn’t history… it’s fiction.” Many works of fiction begin in fact and take off. This isn’t meant to be a movie star bio. Revoyr springbroads from Hollywood’s first major Asian star to discuss changes in racial attitudes. I understand all that but somehow I want to like this novel more than I do.

Alex Gildzen is a poet and artist who lives in New Mexico. His current book is It’s All a Movie. On Arroyo Chamisa he blogs about poetry and film and dessert.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, April 14th, 2008.