Ever read a book you wish you had written? That’s Jess Walter’s sumptuous Beautiful Ruins for me. A meld of settings – from present day to 1962, from a small fishing village on the coast of Italy to Los Angeles and ultimately to Idaho – a mix of fictional devices from narrative fiction to faux memoir to screenplay pitches – acts of plays-- Beautiful Ruins is layer on layer of interwoven stories surrounding the life of Dee Moray, a beautiful starlet on the edge of fame.
From a writer’s perspective lines like this…
On selling a screenplay pitch:
“And now she knows where she recognizes that look from. It’s a look she sees every day, the look of someone doing the math, of someone seeing the angles.”
On age and celebrity:
“…two kinds of people always lie about their ages: actresses and Latin American pitchers.“
“We want what we want….”
runs through the novel and sets up the middle aged and older characters on a path of wanting the wrong thing: money and fame. But we want what we want so we go on destroying ourselves, and almost, almost destroy others in the process.
The last chapter begins with a heart-rending quote from the writer Milan Kundera:
“There would be nothing more obvious,
More tangible, than the present moment.
And yet it eludes us completely.
All the sadness of life lies in that fact.”
Ultimately, Beautiful Ruins is a story about seizing the moment, about being happy with what is real and near and true. It’s also a love story -- a triumph of love, a reaffirmation of what is real in this celebrity-driven culture.
This novel beautifully ruined me. More about this must read author at www.jesswalter.com.
Is there a novel that has ruined you recently?
Truly, Caroline Bock, author of LIE.