Life Goes to the Movies

Dzanc Books, 2009
Finalist: AWP Award Series for the Novel
Finalist: James Jones First Novel Fellowship

“Dwaine grabs my hand and holds it. He does it nonchalantly, the way you might pick up a bright shell from the beach. I don’t say a thing or react in any way. I’m too surprised to react. After a while it seems perfectly natural, him holding my hand that way, like we’ve been holding hands forever, since we were five years old, like we were born to hold hands, Dwaine and I.”

When Vietnam-veteran turned filmmaker Dwaine Fitzgibbon (“that’s D for Death, W for War, A for Anarchy, I for Insane, N for Nightmare, and E for the End of the World”) takes Nigel DePoli under his wing to teach him about movies and life, Nigel think’s he’s found the perfect antidote to his small-town, immigrant child’s upbringing. But Dwaine is arguable insane, and the greatest movie they’ll ever collaborate on is the one Dwaine produces in his disciple’s gullible, hero-addled mind.

Their erotically charged friendship is the subject of what one sly reader has called an “anti-homophobic” novel, a bond strengthened but also tested by their shared passion for Veronica “Venus” Dwiggins, a beautiful albino costume designer. With Dwaine less and less able to distinguish between reality and cinema, Nigel must choose between sanity and loyalty. The story climaxes with Nigel’s gambit to rescue his hero from the psychiatric ward to which he has taken flight, a scheme involving a considerable budget, a cast and crew of hospitalized V-vets, and the world’s most famous soft-drink.

PRAISE FOR Life Goes to the Movies:

“At the center of Life Goes to the Movies is Dwaine Fitzgibbon, a young filmmaker whit a wild imagination and inexhaustible ambition. For Dwaine, every experience is potential material for the great film he’s going to make, and everyone he meets becomes a part of his supporting cast. Swept up into the performance that is Dwaine’s life, the novel’s narrator, Nigel DePoli, describes their fraught friendship as it intensifies and evolves through the years. It’s a riveting story, artfully constructed and told with wit, precision, and sensitivity.”
—Joanna Scott, author of Everybody Loves Somebody

“Wonderfully innovative and elegantly crafted, Life Goes to the Movies brims with exuberance and wit.  Both a celebration and something of an elegy for the golden age of Hollywood, this novel reeled me in with its propulsive energy and won me over before I had finished chapter one.”
— Frederick Reiken, author of The Lost Legends of New Jersey

Life Goes to the Movies is the irresistible account of a passionate friendship between two young men, both star-struck by art.  Selgin’s vivid account of New York in the 1970s, his richly complex characters, his encyclopedic knowledge of film and his sense of how small the gap is between good luck and bad make this an utterly absorbing novel.  A wonderful read.”
— Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street

“With Life Goes to the Movies, Peter Selgin aims far higher than most of us poor storytellers ever dare.  From beginning to end, I kept imagining the funnels of smoke that surely must have risen from his keyboard as he wrote this potent, superbly crafted, and wonderfully ambitious novel.”
— Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff