Coming Out Fighting

New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr's debut novel is a poignant, semiautobiographical treatise on Hollywood and the hypocrisies of Judaism.

BY Nicholas Fonseca

June 23 2009 11:00 PM ET

CHANDLER BURR 03 XLRG (MATTHEW FURMAN) | ADVOCATE.COM

Though previously tolerant of her husband's Judaism, Anne begins to adopt a sharp, take-no-prisoners view of religion, and it's no accident that her take mirrors Burr's. "I am an equal-opportunity opponent of all religions," says Burr, an atheist. "All religions, I believe, are fundamentally flawed. I don't believe in any of them."

He's also no fan of gray areas, and that goes double for people who espouse one tenet or another of a religion without acknowledging the whole. "Religions mean something," he insists. "These identifications are not infinitely elastic. As a matter of fact, they are incredibly inelastic. If you are a Jew, you had better believe that everybody who is not a Jew is not as important to God. If you're Catholic, you'd better believe that everybody who is not a Christian is going to hell. And you can't just say that you are a Muslim and leave it at that. No. All your [non-Muslim] friends are in the House of War and must be converted to Islam and submit to Allah. That's what it's about! You don't get to pick and choose."

"I wanted Anne to be in a very Jewish world," says Burr, "a world that could become a cult. I can't imagine [this novel taking place] anywhere else. It's so perfect. Los Angeles is so utterly otherworldly."

Burr has spent a considerable amount of time in the offices of Hollywood talent agents, producers, and studio muckamucks. He's written seven screenplays, taken scores of meetings, and even collaborated with überproducer Brian Graden on a three-month project that -- like 99% of all showbiz endeavors -- ultimately fell apart. Choosing Los Angeles as the setting for a novel that so trenchantly examines literature and Judaism was therefore a no-brainer. "I can't tell you how many times I've actually had an industry person say to me in total seriousness, 'I read the coverage and/or review of the book. It's a masterful work.' But they haven't even read the book! And they are completely unembarrassed by it!"

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