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Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Jess Walter

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2,4551852,506 (3.81)199
Title:Beautiful Ruins: A Novel
Authors:Jess Walter
Info:Harper (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

  1. 00
    The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Exotic backdrops -- Italy in Beautiful Ruins and Jamaica in The Pirate's Daughter -- combine with Hollywood glamor (and scandal) in these engaging historical novels, in which past events influence present-day situations. Both feature cameo appearances by real-life movie stars.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Rocks by Peter Nichols (Anonymous user)
  3. 02
    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Does what this book is trying to do; does it better.

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» See also 199 mentions

English (180)  Spanish (1)  All languages (181)
Showing 1-5 of 180 (next | show all)
This was quite lovely, to be honest. ( )
  imahorcrux | Jun 22, 2016 |
I struggled a bit thru this book. My initial 2 stars have been changed to 5 stars... because Pasquale deserves FIVE WHOLE STARS!
Recently one of my brilliant friends brought it to my attention that being a harsh critic on non action packed books is being unfair to the author.
That being said, I have a few points that need to be addressed.
If something is making you feel bored, and the plotline is a bit dry; dull; and perhaps even a little boring and redundant, it is probably because the book does not center around an action packed drama soaked plotline, and it is supposed to focus on the character buildup.
Basically since the beginning of time in writing plotlines, pretty much all stories have been told at this time... so, for modern day writers...
It is all about the Character buildup!
That all being said, I am in love with the main character Pasquale. He is a tender hearted sweet old school traditional italian man that was truly an admirable man in regards to his morals. I truly adored him. He made me laugh, because I never truly realized how much emotion is lost in translated italian to english. He would mutter one word he HOPED was a proper response that fit in with crazy american slangs and dialog, yet his mind would be filled with beautiful thoughts and emotions... he would constantly seek approval in the american's response and judged their reactions by reading their faces and tones of voice. I thought he was adorable and a beautiful man and he is forever memorable.
So thank you Jess Walter, for introducing us to Pasquale, who now lives forever in my heart! :) ( )
  XoVictoryXo | May 31, 2016 |
Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter
audio performance by Edoardo Ballerini


That was then, this is now; but it’s all much the same; the lives of the rich, famous and the wannabes. What is art? Let’s make a deal.

The book alternates time lines from Italy, in 1962 during the filming of Cleopatra, to destination Hollywood in the present century. There are detours to the UK, Seattle, and small town USA, as the story brings together a diverse set of characters. There were lots of characters that I didn’t like in this book and only one that had any appeal at all, Pasquale. Pasquale made the book for me. Pasquale, and the book’s conclusion, and the sharp-edged, blood letting descriptions of each and every character. Scummy or ineffectual, depressed or narcissistic, Jess Walters nails it with every character.

I suppose that the aging producer with his female assistant and the wannabe writer were meant to be exaggerations of type, caricatures of the entertainment business. But, I’ve lived and worked a freeway’s hop from Hollywood for over 30 years. I’ve taught child actors and the children of actors. I’ve worked with film school grads and musicians with teaching credentials. For most of these people the entertainment industry is just that. It’s a job that can provide a living, and with luck, creative satisfaction. But I’ve also met the people who populated this book; the ones who live their lives as if they were caricatures of themselves. I didn’t like them, but I have met them. I’m surprised that I liked a book that was all about them.

I liked it because Walters does more than paint a satirically damning picture of the entertainment biz. While he is diagramming failed success stories and successful failures, he has a lot to say about life and art.

“All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character-what we believe-none of it is real; it's all part of the story we tell. But here's the thing: it's our goddamned story!”

“...he was part of a ruined generation of young men coddled by their parents--by their mothers especially--raised on unearned self-esteem, in a bubble of overaffection, in a sad incubator of phony achievement.”

“To pitch here is to live. People pitch their kids into good schools, pitch offers on houses they can’t afford, and when they’re caught in the arms of the wrong person, pitch unlikely explanations. Hospitals pitch birthing centers, daycares pitch love, high schools pitch success . . . car dealerships pitch luxury, counselors self-esteem, masseuses happy endings, cemeteries eternal rest . . . It’s endless, the pitching—endless, exhilarating, soul-sucking, and as unrelenting as death. As ordinary as morning sprinklers.”

I didn’t like his characters, but I loved his writing.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
4.5 stars... and it's just shy of 5 only because it's lacking a tiny bit of excitement, anticipation, mystery.

Not that you don't want to keep reading.

After the first chapter, I was afraid I wasn't quite in the mindset to read this, that I was looking for more intrigue. But I delved into the second chapter, and didn't look back.

The prose is just beautiful; the setting, exquisite. And the contrast between a small Italian fishing village in 1962 and today couldn't be more striking. Even with Porto Vergogna being infiltrated by actors from Cleopatra, the meaning of each day - the beauty of each dawn and sunset - is unmistakable. Today, in Hollywood, or Portland, or Seattle, or Sandpoint, life is wrapped up in so many trappings.

Jess Walter does a great job of giving thematic meaning to his story, tying it all together over time and distance. The characters are real: flawed, imperfect, not always likeable, not always successful. And you will finish reading this with the feeling that you were there: in Porto Vergogna, in Edinburgh, in The Room, and in love with being alive. ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Sweeping and cinematic, I found this to be an enjoyable read, even during the sentimental parts. I like the emphasis of the business of show business and the inversion of leading stars and background extras in the plot focus. ( )
  albertgoldfain | May 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 180 (next | show all)
Ruins constitutes a departure for Walter, another unplowed field, and he harrows it straight and true, turning up the fertile humus of the culture’s soiled psyche. Beautiful Ruins collides its broad range of characters in unexpected, unique ways, and the wonderful light touch of the satire makes them eminently believable. Unlike the Juvenalian satirists, whose righteous indignation sometimes results in flat, two-dimensional, cardboard characterizations, Walter’s people inspire sympathy, belief, even a little self-examination. Am I like this? Do I have any qualities that resemble the ones I’m reading about here? If I do, where do I get help?

Jess Walter has written a novel that sprawls on the lawn, looks up fondly at the achingly blue American sky and gazes into the deep humor of our collective human condition. That’s what good satire does—it reminds us who we really are. Humans.
added by zhejw | editPaste, David Langness (Aug 7, 2012)
Walter is simply great on how we live now, and ­— in this particular book — on how we lived then and now, here and there. “Beautiful Ruins” is his Hollywood novel, his Italian novel and his Pacific Northwestern novel all braided into one: an epic romance, tragicomic, invented and reported (Walter knows his “Cleopatra” trivia), magical yet hard-boiled (think García Márquez meets Peter Biskind), with chapters that encompass not just Italy in the ’60s and present-day Hollywood, but also Seattle and Britain and Idaho, plot strands unfolding across the land mines of the last half-century — an American landscape of vice, addiction, loss and heartache, thwarted careers and broken dreams. It is also a novel about love: amorous love, filial love, parental love and the deep, sustaining love of true friendship....

His balanced mixture of pathos and comedy stirs the heart and amuses as it also rescues us from the all too human pain that is the motor of this complex and ever-evolving novel. Any reservations the reader might have about another book about Hollywood, about selling one’s soul (or someone else’s, and pocketing the change) will probably be swept aside by this high-wire feat of bravura storytelling. Walter is a talented and original writer.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Helen Schulman (Jul 6, 2012)
This novel is a standout not just because of the inventiveness of its plot, but also because of its language. Jess Walter is essentially a comic writer: Sometimes he's asking readers to laugh at the human condition; sometimes he's inviting us to just plain laugh.
added by zhejw | editNPR, Maureen Corrigan (Jun 18, 2012)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jess Walterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballerini, EdoardoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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De grootste architectonische meesterwerken van de oude Romeinen zijn gebouwd om er wilde dieren in te laten vechten.
- Voltaire, Briefwisselingen
Cleopatra: Ik wil niet de slaaf zijn van de liefde.
Marcus Antonius: Dan zul je geen liefde kennen.
- Uit de rampenfilm Cleopatra, 1963
[Dick] Cavett heeft in 1980 vier lange interviews gehouden met Richard Burton... Burton, met vierenvijftig jaar al een schitterende ruïne, was ongekend charismatisch.
- 'Talk Story' door Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 22 november 2010
To Anne, Brooklyn, Ava, and Alec
First words
The dying actress arrived in his village the only way one could come directly -- in a boat that motored into the cove, lurched past the rock jetty, and bumped against the end of the pier.
Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is rght, the happier you will be.(page 304)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Follows a young Italian innkeeper and his almost-love affair with a beautiful American starlet, which draws him into a glittering world filled with unforgettable characters.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061928127, Hardcover)

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:29 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A novel that spans fifty years. The Italian housekeeper and his long-lost American starlet; the producer who once brought them together, and his assistant. A glittering world filled with unforgettable characters.

(summary from another edition)

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