Those lucky enough to work in the Hollywood movie-making business know the importance of perseverance and the development of an exceptionally thick skin. Those not familiar with the industry can get a small glimpse of it through Hollywood screenwriter John Blumenthal’s witty novel What’s Wrong with Dorfman? The author cleverly plagues his central character with so many issues, that it would be difficult to find a reader who cannot relate to at least one of his sources of pain and frustration.
Blumenthal injects his real life screenwriter experiences into Martin Dorfman, a screenwriter unable to catch a break in either his personal or professional life. On a personal level, his character takes the term hypochondriac to a new level. The bulk of the book and its humor centers around Dorfman’s ailments, self-diagnoses, and quest to find a cure. The witty dialogue outlining his neurotic tendencies is cleverly woven into the story and illustrates the depth of his illness.
Dorfman’s life is consumed with solving this mystery, and he will go to any length to find some relief. During one office visit, he meets with Delia, a woman who might posses just as many neurotic tendencies as Dorfman himself. The relationship between these two characters is amusing – as each character seems to find solace in the fact that there may actually be someone with more aches and pains than themselves.
Dorfman’s upbringing is a central component of this story – with particular emphasis on his father, whose quackery is another significant source of the novel’s humor. His father’s obsession with handwashing (with lather) is a recurring theme that elicits laughter throughout the novel.
Since repeated rejection is a known precursor to virtually all significant Hollywood careers, the career path of Martin Dorfman portrayed in this book is no exception. At first his interaction with Hollywood insiders seems to exacerbate his medical conditions but it eventually (and thankfully) leads Dorfman to discover the cure he so desperately desires.