Part memoir, part cultural history, part portrait of place, Always Crashing in the Same Car explores Hollywood through a certain kind of collapse. It’s a vibrant and intimate inspection of failure told through the lives of iconic, if under-sung, artists—Carole Eastman, Eleanor Perry, Warren Zevon, Tuesday Weld, and Hal Ashby, among others—and the author’s own family history. Through this constellation of Hollywood figures, he unearths a fascinating alternate history of the city that raised him and explores the ways in which curtailed ambition, insufficiency, and loss shape all our lives.
At once deeply personal and broadly erudite, it is a story of an art form (the movies), a city (Los Angeles), and one person’s attempt to create meaning out of both. Above all, Specktor creates a moving search for optimism alongside the inevitability of failure and reveals the still-resonant power of art to help us navigate the beautiful ruins that await us all.
Remarkable…. Writing through his troubles, Specktor offers consolatory beauty.—The Los Angeles Times
A novelist and critic with a sharp eye for Hollywood blends memoir and cultural critique in this study of classic American failure narratives.—The New York Times Book Review
Fascinating…. This enthralling work deserves a central spot on the ever-growing shelf of books about Tinseltown.—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Compelling…. [an] intimate investigation of one man’s imperfect life, the successes and failures, and most importantly, the realization that who we are now is everything.—Ploughshares
Eloquent…. An incisive collection of artist portraits illuminates the tenuous quality of Hollywood celebrity and the price it exacts.—Shelf Awareness
Specktor delivers interesting pieces of criticism, reporting, and self-help in this unique memoir.—Kirkus Reviews
Playful and thought-provoking.—ALTA
A blend of absorbing autobiographical vignettes and incisive cultural deep dives…. Specktor [is] a masterful observer of the weird tragedies and creative blocks that regularly befall artists in L.A.—Aquarium Drunkard
Specktor has captured the LA I know, the one all around me and the one in my head, a city of invention and grit, surface and underbelly.—Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown
Haunting, powerful, riveting, unforgettable—I could go on (and on) about Matthew Specktor’s astounding new book about failure, writing, Los Angeles, and the movies. With scholarly rigor and tenderhearted sympathy, Specktor excavates the lives of artists forgotten (Carol Eastman, Eleanor Perry), underappreciated (Thomas McGuane, Hal Ashby), and notorious (Warren Zevon, Michael Cimino), while always circling back to his own benighted Hollywood upbringing. This is an angry, sad, but always somehow joyful book about not hitting it big, and I’ve never read anything quite like it.—Tom Bissell, author of Creative Types
Matthew Specktor’s Always Crashing in the Same Car is going on the shelf with Play It As it Lays and The Big Sleep and my other favorite books about L.A. I’m not sure what it is. A memoir-essay grafted onto a psycho-geographic travelogue of the weirdest town to be from? All I know is I couldn’t stop reading it. —John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
A haunting memoir-in-criticism exploring a very certain kind of failure—the Hollywood story. Specktor intricately knits his own losses and nostalgias into a larger cultural narrative of writers and filmmakers whose failures left behind a ghostly glamour. I can’t get it out of my mind.—Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and
In Hollywood, according to Brecht’s famous formulation, there was no need of heaven and hell; the presence of heaven alone served the unsuccessful as hell. But Los Angeles has always been full of commuters on the congested freeway between both camps. They are the subject of Matthew Specktor’s continuously absorbing and revealing book, itself nestling in the fruitful terrain between memoir and criticism.—Geoff Dyer, author of Out of Sheer Rage