Thursday, 14 July 2016

"Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter

   The summer is a slow time for book clubs, and since there is a new book club starting at a local library, I decided to read their first selection, and attend the discussion.
  Boy, did I struggle with this book!  It is called an epistolary novel, with excerpts of letters, screenplays, and novels written by the characters.  What a jumble!
   The beginning of the novel drew me in.  It painted a beautiful picture of the coast of Italy.  But as soon as I started the second chapter, I knew that I would not enjoy this book. The sentences became long and convoluted as the scene changed to Hollywood. And each successive chapter jumped around in time and place.
   The novel covers 50 years and the ending was a fast romp back through all the myriad characters- telling how their lives turned out.

From Wikipedia:  "The novel is a social satire critiquing Hollywood culture.  Though not the explicit focus of the novel, receiving very little direct appearances in the novel, the characters' lives revolve around Elizabeth Taylor and her role in the movie Cleopatra, and the subsequent love affair between Taylor and Richard Burton".

My reaction:  Richard Burton doesn't appear until well after the half-way point in the book and although he is somewhat important to the plot, his appearance does not improve the novel.  He just appears as a drunk who fathers a child.  Elizabeth Taylor is very much in the background.

   Jess Walter lives in Spokane, Washington.  His short fiction has been published in magazines such as "Playboy".  This doesn't surprise me because there is a sexual 'edge' to his writing- a crudeness that I didn't appreciate.

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