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Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Jess Walter

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

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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. 01
    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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Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
Timeline between 1960s and 2000s ( )
  198therese | Jan 19, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book..it was a quick book and kept me entertained. ( )
  Colleen.OP | Jan 15, 2015 |
It's a romantic humorous novel, set in Italy, Hollywood, Edinburgh, Idaho, Idaho?, and a couple of other cities. The actor Richard Burton plays a role, a drunken one as expected, but Elizabeth is only mentioned by name. The story starts with a minor actress who's been impregnated by Richard (you don't say!) but has been convinced that she is dying of cancer. Burton and the movie director Michael Deane, who are filming the movie Cleopatra in Rome, found this small impoverished port village that nobody cares to visit, and send the actress there telling her that Richard will be coming soon, so she will be sent to a cancer specialist in Switzerland. She stays at the only hotel in the village, curiously named Hotel Adequate View, run by the young Italian Pasquale Tursi. A young American with dreams of being a writer also stays in the hotel, Alvin Bender is his name. He visits once a year for a couple of weeks to write his novel.

From there, the story develops in several directions following key events in the lives of the main characters. The novel jumps back and forth in time between April 1962 and the present, that is 40-50 years later. It has a number of funny scenes throughout that keep the reader motivated to continue reading. Such as the one about Pasquale building a tennis court up in the craggy mountain behind the village. He's been clearing the rocks and trying to get the surface flat so it can be used to play tennis. The view from there is gorgeous but the court will extend to the precipice- Pasquale had visions of two players fielding the ball back and forth in sheer joy. However, he never thought that every time one of them missed, the ball would plunge into the ocean. Adding a screen to prevent balls from being lost would destroy the view.

The characters, however, are pretty stereotypical. The Italian family with many children, autocratic father. The self-absorbed movie actors and actresses. The temperamental young Italians. Etc. etc. Nonetheless, I think it's worth reading for the pure enjoyment of it. ( )
  xieouyang | Jan 9, 2015 |
A disappointment considering that "Beautiful Ruins" checks off all the requirements on my increasingly picky list for "ideal summer read" (a beautiful and remote seaside location! romance and drama! Richard Burton's illegitimate child!).

Jess Walter is out of his element here trying to write a more melancholic and literary version of the chicklit beach-read, which is a bummer considering that his previous novel ("The Financial Lives of the Poets") was both thoughtful AND enjoyable. While Walter occasionally sprinkles in his favorite tropes (ex-wives, perpetual man-boys), much of the novel seems targeted toward the demographic that would be attracted to its supermarket-generic cover.

Half the novel takes place in a long-lost Italy of the '60s (where movie stars romped and the local mafia --natch-- terrorized well-meaning hotel proprietors). If you can suspend your disbelief at said hotel proprietor --Pasquale Tursi- being able to express fairly complex ideas in English and then switching to his native Italian only to say things like "Yes" and "No", then you are a more forgiving reader than I am. The novel jumps between past and present and has some mildly interesting but fairly predictable things to say about life and love (thankfully, the novel's main focus veers away from the cliche plotline of "Will Pasquale get the girl?"). I have no doubt that Hollywood (not so much skewered but lightly grilled here) will option the book and change the ending with a double wedding and the skeezy movie producer being pushed off a cliff. It will do $70 million at the domestic box office. ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |

First, let me say the audiobook version of this book was amazing. It's probably the best book I have ever listened to.

As for the rest of the book - it was excellent. I found myself looking forward to my car rides so I could listen to more of it. {What a refreshing change from both The Orphan Master's Son and The Round House, where some days I switched to music, I just didn't want to listen anymore}. Jess Walter weaves so many characters into this novel. There were times in the middle of the novel that a new character would be introduced (or their story would be explained), and I would feel frustrated because I wanted to hear more about the characters we already knew. But by the end of that chapter, I wanted more of that character as well.

He did a beautiful job of telling each character's story; one told as a play, two told as chapters of a novel, another side story told as a pitch for a movie. Somehow all the characters and all the stories came together in a beautiful way. And the language and the writing of this novel was beautiful as well (I wanted to add so much of the writing to my quotes section on goodreads).

The only thing keeping this from 5 stars was the several moments I had of frustration with the new characters halfway through the novel. It all came together in the end but there was a lot of gear switching in the story, sometimes too much. ( )
  carebear10712 | Dec 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 145 (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
Walter, Jessmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballerini, EdoardoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:24 -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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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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