Monday, September 10, 2012

If You Can't Say Something Nice.....

Remember that admonishment from your mom? I apologize for not posting for a whole week but here's the dilemma....I can't say something nice yet about the two books I'm smack dab in the middle of. And guess what? They got great reviews from others!

Now, I'll grant you that last week I was completely caught up in the Democratic convention, glued to PBS's 4 hour coverage with Gwen Ifil and crew. Some of the speakers, especially the fine women, brought me to my knees. Sandra Fluke may one day be tapped for the Supreme Court but I suspect it won't be in my lifetime.

So, by the time I hit the bed, Jess Walter and his Beautiful Ruins simply could not entice me to read long into the night. Before I read all the kudos I was drawn to the book by its cover. Admit it, we all do it. How could you resist this gorgeous Italian coastline south of the CinqueTerra.Beautiful Ruins: A NovelAnd the lovely young man, Pasquale Tursi, owner of the Hotel Adequate View, in Porto Vergogna (yes, there is a great deal of droll humor in this book) is an endearing optimist full of grandiose plans to enhance the family inheritance.

These ideas could actually come to fruition now that the young American actress Dee Moray has come to his hotel hiding from the paparazzi who will beat down the doors when they discover that she's been booted from the set of Cleopatra, being filmed in Rome, for becoming pregnant by its big star.

But Walter doesn't want readers to languish back in 1962. Each chapter belongs to another set of characters in a different time and place, few of whom are as sympathetic as Pasquale and Dee.

There's Michael Deane, a caricature of the big-time Hollywood mogul, botoxed, sutured, and tanned to the point that his humanity is erased from his plastic face. (though this reader suspects he may be able to redeem himself in the final chapters)

There's Alvis Bender, the hapless writer who returns to Porto Vergogna each summer to tap away on his royal typewriter, editing a one chapter manuscript that goes nowhere. And then Claire Silver, Deane's long suffering assistant, who spends her weeks listening to amateurs pitch one horrible movie plot line after another, seeking the breakout story that will get her name in lights. 

Perhaps it's unfair of me to discuss this novel before I've finished it. Jess Walter has been a finalist for a National Book Award and the distinguished recipient of an Edgar too. And, at 259 pages in, there's no way I'm giving up on him now. Reviewers say this is a novel about flawed dreamers, beautiful ruins if you will. I'm a sucker for a happy ending so I'm forging ahead in hopes that Mr. Walter will tie all of his tales together in a tear inducing finale that will force me to eat crow for breakfast.

I'm dying to hear from any of you who have finished Beautiful Ruins, whether you loved or hated it. Tell us why, please. Let's have a discussion.

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