Bob Dylan, Woody Allen and Dustin Hoffman – three titans of the cultural arts in the 20th (and 21st) Century and three men who are woven into the tapestry of Jared Feldschreiber’s debut novella, Reckless Abandon. As someone who admires Dylan, Allen and Hoffman (who I met years ago), I was intrigued by what Feldschreiber had crafted, hoping it would somehow pull together the artistic, literary and lyrical professional nature of the men. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a book about hope, passion, drive and a love of art. There’s an honesty within Feldschreiber’s prose which makes it all seem very real – it isn’t of course, but it feels like it could be – and that’s a driving force behind this tale.
Set in New York in 1984, Reckless Abandon follows John Duggan, a young playwright who longs to unite the talents of Bob Dylan, Woody Allen and Dustin Hoffman in a dream stage production. The novella follows Duggan as he attempts to meet his heroes and it tracks the playwright as he attempts to navigate the business side of the entertainment industry. He’s not cunning or overtly wise to the world, he’s a young dreamer with a single, unique vision.
Reckless Abandon isn’t just about the characters and the narrative which drives it, the text is also a fascinating insight int the careers of the three central artists. Feldschreiber’s passion for the men is clear and he delves into what they were doing creatively in 1984 – be that Dylan’s world tour, Allen’s filming of The Purple Rose Of Cairo, or Hoffman’s Broadway run of Death Of A Salesman. Other work by the artists is also referenced, and it’s clear the author knows exactly what he’s writing about. This is the point where fact and fiction converge, where Feldschreiber’s admiration for the art helps give the book its honest tone. Yes, it’s a work of fiction, but many of the events in book really happened – even if the particulars of Duggan’s travels never did.
When Feldschreiber (via the book’s protagonist) asks why Bob Dylan, Woody Allen and Dustin Hoffman have never worked together, you actually ask yourself that very question. It would have made sense as an artistic (and financial) endeavour, but then you think about the creative personalities involved, it probably could never have satisfied any of the men on a professional level. Too much compromise and a loss of control.
It’s fitting that Feldschreiber chose to set the story in 1984 because the remnants of the men’s work in the 1960s and 1970s would begin to fall away, and after that point their careers would spin-off into different trajectories. Dylan would soon join forces with Tom Petty and get rejuvenated by The Traveling Wilburys, Allen was a few years away from his personal trials and tribulations, while Hoffman’s next film was the much maligned (but actually rather good) Ishtar and he would then win an Oscar for Rain Man. Even New York, the book’s setting would undergo significant change on the coming years.
Feldschreiber also penned an afterword to the book, adding an additional layer of texture to the tone which helps give it even more relevance. This addition, along with a foreword by Getty photojournalist Katy Winn ensures the book is much more than a creative work of fiction.
Clean, crisp prose and realistic dialogue make Reckless Abandon an enjoyable read – and once you throw in book’s cultural touchstones you get a fascinating piece of literature which really does resonate. Jared Feldschreiber’s book is so clear in the mind’s eye that you could also see it was a film – a hero’s journey to unite three epic titans. Wouldn’t that be something?