By Ray Rahman
Updated March 12, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

To be sure, this is an odd book. The language will pique you first: the unusual sepia-toned formality, stately sentences like ”Jacob stood and stared into the bruised light of the setting sun, and with his eyes filled with its gloaming he seemed to be contemplating the oncoming darkness.” But it suits the story, a wide-screen allegory that follows artist/inventor Joseph Rosenbloom — known as just Bloom — as he settles atop a mountain near preindustrial L.A. There his poetic solitude is interrupted by an ambitious half brother, the nascent film industry, carpetbagging developers, and the American century at large. It’s a brooding tale with big themes — love, loss, rebirth — but it also feels distant and perhaps too elegant to elicit emotion. B