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3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  95 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
In his most profound and accomplished book to date, acclaimed author Bruce Wagner breaks from Hollywood culture with a novel of exceptional literary dimension and searing emotional depth. Joan Herlihy is a semi-successful architect grasping at the illustrious commission that will catapult her to international renown, glossy de cor magazines, and the luxe condo designs of M ...more
Hardcover, 507 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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Jan 14, 2008 Elise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people looking for linguistic playfulness and cultural fluency
So, I took a writing workshop in which the author teaching it reminded us to be kind to our characters -- basically warning us away from beating on them for the sake of an intense read. Bruce Wagner was obviously not taught by this guy -- he absolutely brutalizes one of his characters, and it's left me uncomfortable because I can't tell if there's some larger symbolism that absolves his authorial choices, or if he just decided to be truly gratuituous.
(There are four major narratives/characters
Diana Fang
Aug 10, 2011 Diana Fang rated it it was ok
A look into the world of four estranged family members, this book is a snapshot of the travails of upper-class life and partially a reflection on Hindu spirituality.
It's not a book the ordinary citizen can necessarily relate to in its content. It is packed a little too densely with references I don't understand (regions of California, celebrities and those in high ranks), but as an architecture student, I got a kick out of many of the architecture terms and names dropped. Sardonic and fatalisti
Dec 31, 2012 Jordan rated it it was amazing
When the shock jock cynicism made me put down Dead Stars (probably forever), Memorial delivered the dose of BW prose that I had been missing. Memorial has a soupcon of Rushdie in its stream of conscious rant bits, and a Dickensian (yeah, I hate that word too) plot. Memorial is a masterpiece, where Dead Stars reads like a rehashed, wrung-out version, battering its characters until they are fully dehumanized.

I have no desire to meet the author, or visit any dimension of his Los Angeles, but have t
Eleanor Schmidt
Feb 22, 2016 Eleanor Schmidt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
another unusual look at LA from an expert of the city. this book had more depth than his usual ones but his books are always brilliant in their own way.
Apr 19, 2015 Charles rated it really liked it
Not my favorite of Wagner's novels (see I'll Let You Go), but it does offer plenty of the author's usual biting wit, incisive social commentary--Wagner, more than any other novelist, seems to be writing his books the day before you happen to read them--and melodramatic, excruciating plot turns. He also, as usual, explores subcultures one rarely sees in novels--in this case, status-grubbing contemporary architects and chronic pain-sufferers. Wagner's love of punning and wordplay wore on me at tim ...more
Dec 12, 2007 Alex rated it it was ok
This book centers on four characters, two which are unreadably annoying. Out of the remaining two, one starts entering a completely depressing path that makes me hate the world.

The book itself is frustrating as it jumps between moments of brilliance and blocks of poetic-for-the-sake-of-being-poetic paragraphs about nothing. There would sometimes be a chapter that would essentially buy a couple more chapters worth of attention for me (as in, "Wow, that was really neat, I guess I can put up with
Feb 19, 2008 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book had what can be assumed as a "happy" (or at least a sensible ending), the majority of the rest of the book was pretty much Wagner's hypnotic rant at modern America and the way we trap ourselves with the combined vices of money and self-pity.

Ray and Ghulpa were my two favorite characters, while Chester and Laxmi were truly loathsome. Wagner's continual references to India, and Indian culture was surprising but seemed to fit in and find a place with the theme of the book toward the
Not the best but not the worst. Would I recommend it? Probably not, it just depends on you. Some of the character development was a bit rough for me. Thee wee sections of the book that went well and others I just struggled with, overall it wasn't bad.
Gareth Schweitzer
Sep 20, 2012 Gareth Schweitzer rated it liked it
Puzzling... I thought I'd really like this! Is this really what people in LA are really like?

Joan is the best character for me...sexually empowered and no nonsense - maybe she could've been more vicious though!

My main bugbears with this book...the old lady strand...eeew...too, too much...really bad taste without the good writing to pull it off!

And not enough well written prose in the book as a actually tune into the emotional content!!

It is readable though!

Dec 07, 2008 Zac rated it really liked it
Better than his previous novel, mostly in attempting to reach the broad scope, the overlapping lives and narratives, of his earlier works. As other reviewers have commented, his verbal flourishes alternate between brilliant and poetic and just plain annoying... and the sadistic treatment one of his characters receives throughout the book seems... over the top to put it mildly. But ultimately fairly moving and engaging.
Lindsay Holmes
Jul 10, 2008 Lindsay Holmes rated it did not like it
I couldn't even finish this one. The characters were coarse and cheap, completely unsympathetic. The author writes as though he's trying to be a cool, modern writer using really hip language - but he's failed. Miserably. The style comes across as forced and fake. The whole book is so LA-centric, as if there is no other place or way of life outside that area. It's very irritating. A disappointment overall.
Feb 24, 2013 Kurt rated it liked it
A 500 page opus of often irreverent (Read: Wonderful) wit and compassionatley rendered characters. Read it for the writing alone. A "karmically" convoluted tale of a fragmented, dysfunctional Los Angeles family, as told through the lives of its aging mother, long-lost father and 2 adult children that never gets boring or bogged down.
Jul 25, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing
my favorite read so far this year. a dizzying magestic whirlwind of tradegy admist endless pop culture references. addictive.
Beth Shields-Szostak
Jun 22, 2010 Beth Shields-Szostak marked it as to-read
Shelves: signed
1st edition, signed by author; rm on bottom edge
Kip Conlon
Sep 21, 2007 Kip Conlon rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: avid readers with strong tummies
I like this book good.
Kevin marked it as to-read
Apr 17, 2016
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Brendan M. marked it as to-read
Mar 26, 2016
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Mar 05, 2016
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Bruce Wagner is the author of The Chrysanthemum Palace (a PEN Faulkner fiction award finalist); Still Holding; I'll Let You Go (a PEN USA fiction award finalist); I'm Losing You; and Force Majeure. He lives in Los Angeles.
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