Books: Passing Time

HOLLYWOOD: A NOVEL OF AMERICA IN THE 1920S by Gore Vidal

Random House; 437 pages; $19.95

The combined marquee value of the names Hollywood and Gore Vidal probably equals the Latin American debt. Judging by its cover alone, drillions of people are going to buy this book. Those who also read it may be mildly unsettled to discover that much of the novel is set not in Hollywood but in Washington. However, Vidal's premise -- that both these places are pretty much alike -- is amusing enough to keep the customers happy.

Hollywood is the sixth installment in the author's sprawling...

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