An epic, mesmerizing oral history of Hollywood and Los Angeles from the author of the contemporary classic Edie
Jean Stein transformed the art of oral history in her groundbreaking book Edie: American Girl, an indelible portrait of Andy Warhol “superstar” Edie Sedgwick, which was edited with George Plimpton. Now, in West of Eden, she turns to Los Angeles, the city of her childhood. Stein vividly captures a mythic cast of characters: their ambitions and triumphs as well as their desolation and grief.
These stories illuminate the bold aspirations of five larger-than-life individuals and their families. West of Eden is a work of history both grand in scale and intimate in detail. At the center of each family is a dreamer who finds fortune and strife in Southern California: Edward Doheny, the Wisconsin-born oil tycoon whose corruption destroyed the reputation of a U.S. president and led to his own son’s violent death; Jack Warner, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, who together with his brothers founded one of the world’s most iconic film studios; Jane Garland, the troubled daughter of an aspiring actress who could never escape her mother’s schemes; Jennifer Jones, an actress from Oklahoma who won the Academy Award at twenty-five but struggled with despair amid her fame and glamour. Finally, Stein chronicles the ascent of her own father, Jules Stein, an eye doctor born in Indiana who transformed Hollywood with the creation of an unrivaled agency and studio.
In each chapter, Stein paints a portrait of an outsider who pins his or her hopes on the nascent power and promise of Los Angeles. Each individual’s unyielding intensity pushes loved ones, especially children, toward a perilous threshold. West of Eden depicts the city that has projected its own image of America onto the world, in all its idealism and paradox. As she did in Edie, Jean Stein weaves together the personal recollections of an array of individuals to create an astonishing tapestry of a place like no other.
Read by Scott Brick, Paul Boehmer, Tara Sands, Cassandra Campbell, Arthur Morey, Mark Bramhall, Kathleen McInerney, Ann Marie Lee, Fred Sanders, Jorjeana Marie, Keith Szarabajka, Will Damron and Bruce Mann.
Advance praise for West of Eden
“Jean Stein’s West of Eden is a stunning exploration of five families who made Los Angeles what it is. Gossipy, dark, rich, mesmerizing.”—Joan Didion
“In times past, in an effort to capture the edge and feel of Hollywood during its golden age of glamour and noir, Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Carey McWilliams, and Joan Didion stretched language and genre to their limits. Jean Stein and West of Eden belong in this company.”—Kevin Starr, former California State Librarian and author of California: A History
“[A] compelling, occasionally gossipy, informative chronicle of the flamboyant personalities from a storybook Hollywood era . . . [West of Eden] rivets.”—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Edie
“This is the book of the sixties that we have been waiting for.”—Norman Mailer
“Through a kaleidoscope of seemingly fragmented voices, patterns form, giving brilliant definition to the very American tragedy of Edie Sedgwick.”—Publishers Weekly
“Extraordinary . . . a fascinating narrative that is both meticulously reported and expertly orchestrated.”—The New York Times