Bucky McMahon's Reviews > Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
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Aug 09, 2012

it was amazing
Read on August 09, 2012

Lovely lovely lovely. Has there ever been a more affecting portrait of a beautiful woman and her progress through this leering world? Well, possibly, but I'm still basking in the book's afterglow and won't hear of it. Walter doesn't establish starlet Dee Moray's attraction in a few deft strokes but rather labors, like a lover, to reveal new facets to admire--physical, emotional, and of the intangible soul--every time she appears on the page. This is essential work because Dee is the catalyst of a classic "untold" story of Hollywood (where beauty is the coin of the realm), beginning with Liz and Dick and the making and selling of "Cleopatra," up to and including near-futuristic reality TV. The virtuoso plotting hops around like a James Bond thriller, yet the important tropes are novel-writing, sceen-writing, playwrighting, song-writing, street busking and community theater. World War II (the Italian campaign) has a walk-on. All these modes of story-telling explore the relation of the story we tell ourselves to ambition and fame, which, however small and fleeting, always exacts a high price. Yet, damn it all, this novel of the entertainment biz is a sweet, sweet love story. The opening scene is described, from a lover's point of view, as a moment that lasts forever. It reverberates with me still, as if it were my own memory. I believe it always will.
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