Trish's Reviews > Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
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Jul 08, 12

bookshelves: audio, fiction, italy, funny, author-i-d-most-like-to-meet
Read from July 07 to 08, 2012

A favorable review today in The New York Times said Jess Walter’s new book is like a film script, but to my way of thinking it is more like Walter as a one-man performance artist, who suddenly pulls all kinds of horns, drums, bells and other props out of his bottomless pockets to illustrate a point, to make us laugh, to break into our attention and to declare: “are we entirely mad?” His work is brilliantly interpreted and performed by Edoardo Ballerini on audio, and to hear the thick and heavy tones of Richard Burton declaiming in a small outboard floating off the coast of Italy is to feel a stab of remembered joy.

Fifteen years from conception to production, this is Walter at his crazy, mad, funny, piercing best, for he skewers us and our lives by reflecting popular culture back at ourselves, but showers us with tender mercies at the end. The novel covers a time frame from the early sixties through at least the last decade, and covers at least as many personalities as years. But what a wild and happy party it is, with all the usual suspects: love, greed, envy, pride, lust, infidelity…and, I’ll say it again, finally love. “It’s a love story,” we hear as Hollywood producer Michael Deane pitches his latest to the studio executives at the end of the book. And I guess it always is, in the end, for that is all that really matters.

Take this trip, and if you have eschewed listening on audio for whatever reason, throw aside your inhibitions and do yourself a favor. This is performance art, and may be listened to with great effect. We have a nubile Hollywood actress with a bit part in an Elizabeth Taylor film, a Hollywood producer, a small Italian coastal village, a young man pitching a story…you get the idea. There is lots going on but it always with the greatest clarity that we can see that life ”isn’t always easy” and that we usually find our hapless ways despite, or perhaps because of, our questionable choices.
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Reading Progress

07/07/2012
70.0% "An orgy of listening while doing chores indoor and out. Wildly imaginative,involving real and unreal persons alive and dead...this is the comic opera of a stage performer...I can't quite believe what I am hearing. And the hearing is good! Great reader for this one: Edoardo Ballerini. A perfect voice and story meld."

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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April I second your motion, Trish -- this one should be listened to. I just finished, and Jess Walter answers some questions at the end of the audio copy and discusses how he too loves listening to books and in fact, always reads his writing out loud at the end of each day's writing. This was a perfect novel, read beautifully by Edoardo Bellarini. I'll definitely be putting this on my "re-listen" shelf AND guiding many of future "to-reads" from Others who liked this book, read ....


Care You have written a BEAUTIFUL review here! (now I'm intimidated to start my blog review...) :D


Trish Care wrote: "You have written a BEAUTIFUL review here! (now I'm intimidated to start my blog review...) :D"

NEVER feel that way, please. Great writing inspires great reviews. I liked your speechlessness in the face of his clowning...


Care Oh no worries - I'll just attempt a nice temperate (first scathing then tone it down to 'nice') of a different book and by the time I am ready to review this, I'll know what to say.


Trish Care wrote: "Oh no worries - I'll just attempt a nice temperate (first scathing then tone it down to 'nice') of a different book and by the time I am ready to review this, I'll know what to say."

Fab.


Karenlibrarian I too enjoyed the audio. Ballorini speaks fluent Italian and is great with all the voices. One thing I've noticed since I read/heard the book was the way I now look at all the stupid movie titles out there and ridiculous reality shows. It is a very cynical book. Well written! Well done Jess. Did everyone in the book "get some" except Zia Valeria?


Trish Karenlibrarian wrote: "I too enjoyed the audio. Ballorini speaks fluent Italian and is great with all the voices. One thing I've noticed since I read/heard the book was the way I now look at all the stupid movie titles ..."

You're completely right about Walter's making fun of Hollywood and us for watching. And yes, just about everyone "got some"...


Nancy Walters spoke at a literary luncheon I attended last month and (since you mentioned you would like to meet him) he is funny, modest, self-deprecating and totally "real." Hearing him speak made me enjoy reading the book even more.


Trish Nancy wrote: "Walters spoke at a literary luncheon I attended last month and (since you mentioned you would like to meet him) he is funny, modest, self-deprecating and totally "real." Hearing him speak made me e..."

Oh, that's great that you got the chance to meet him. I bet he is all those things, especially real. I so appreciate that in an author. Have you read any Ruth Ozeki? My gosh, I wish I had read her earlier work, I so enjoyed A Tale for the Time Being.


Nancy Thanks for the suggestion; I will look for Ruth Ozeki.


message 11: by Zakariah (new)

Zakariah Johnson I met Walter when he read at RiverRun bookstore in Portsmouth. He was extremely engaging and generous. I think his "The Zero" still ranks as the best book on post 9/11 America.


Trish Zakariah wrote: "I met Walter when he read at RiverRun bookstore in Portsmouth. He was extremely engaging and generous. I think his "The Zero" still ranks as the best book on post 9/11 America."

I'm jealous. I have read everything of his except The Zero. I hope I can get to it one day.


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