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Innocents and Others (2016)

by Dana Spiotta

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2209105,093 (3.79)15
"The most ambitious, accomplished, and beguiling novel yet from the author of the National Book Award finalist Eat the Document and the National Books Critics Circle Award finalist Stone Arabia. Innocents and Others is a riveting story about three women looking for meaning in friendship, work, and love--"Dana Spiotta is a major unnervingly intelligent writer" (Joy Williams, author of The Quick and the Dead). They've always been friends, and they both become filmmakers: Meadow, who makes documentaries, and Carrie, who makes popular movies with a feminist slant. They grew up together in LA, sharing an obsessive love of film. Their friendship is complicated, but their devotion to each other trumps their wildly different approaches to work and to being in the world. Their lives collide with Jelly, a woman whose most meaningful encounters happen on the phone. Jelly cold calls powerful men and seduces them not through sex but through listening. All the women grapple with the consequences of their actions and with the question of how to be good: a good artist, a good lover, a good friend, a good mother. They all fall short, but as they struggle toward an acceptance of their limits, they approach a kind of release. A startlingly acute observer of the way we live now, Spiotta is a "wonderfully gifted writer with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadnesses of contemporary life, and an unerring ear for how people talk and try to cope today" (The New York Times). She is masterful at evoking the complexity of identity, the corrosive nature of technology, the tyranny of the body, and the enduring longing for connection. Innocents and Others is an ambitious and unforgettable new novel, "a literary marvel ... her aim is nothing less than redemption, and she delivers" (Mary Karr, author Lit and The Liars' Club)"--"From the strikingly original National Book Award nominee, a riveting novel set in Los Angeles and New York that focuses on three women--how they define themselves, how they create meaningful work, how they love"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I love the apparent typo in Spiotta's acknowledgments, citing actor Guy Madison (star of an old TV show about Wild Bill Hickock as well as many movies) as the source for the idea of "re-creating lost films," rather than Canadian film maker Guy Maddin, whose 2014 film Seances is about recreating lost films.

More on the book when I've actually finished it. ( )
  hrebml | Sep 5, 2019 |
I began reading this book armed only with the knowledge that a person whose taste in books is similar to mine made an off-hand comment about it being very good. The title gave me the expectation of the book being a collection of short stories, which was only the first surprising thing about this novel. I didn't even read the dust jacket until the book turned abruptly from being one story into being a very different one, and I think I was lucky in approaching Innocents and Others in complete ignorance about it.

Innocents and Others centers on Meadow, a driven young filmmaker, who has a strong friendship with Carrie, another filmmaker. As their lives progress from high school to adulthood, their friendship shifts in the way of adult friends whose lives have moved in different directions. But more than friendship, this book is about filmmaking and a passion for films and how they are made, with both women pursuing different visions in that art form. There's a lot of the detail of how films are made, the history of film and detailed accounts of each of Meadow's documentary films. It was fascinating, and I ended up looking up some of her topics to learn more.

I suspect that Innocents and Others would not appeal to everyone. It's an emotionally raw novel that is nonetheless written in a distancing way and the details of film-making may not prove fascinating for all readers. I loved this book, with its unapologetic focus on female friendship and the complexities of relationships. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | May 15, 2017 |
This was very ambitious but it didn't work for me. At it's worst, it felt like a DeLillo/Gaitskill mashup and I disliked the plotline about Jelly.

On the other hand, I admire Spiotta's style and her sense of place. Having spent time in upstate NY myself, I really enjoyed the sections of the novel that took place in Gloversville.

I do get what she was going for - using the techniques of one medium in another that takes as it's subject, the first medium, but it's just didn't come together in a way that satisfied. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
As others have noted, Dana Spiotta's Innocents and Others is torpedoed by its cover copy, which promises a "collision" between the lives of filmmakers Meadow and Carrie and that of Jelly, who is described as "older, erotic, and mysterious," the purveyor of seductive phone - well, not sex exactly, but intimacy. It was, in fact, this very promise of drama tinged with immorality that led me to request an ARC from the publisher. What I got instead was a plodding exposé of each woman's life, which barely intersects with the others, much less revealing the others in a new light. That Spiotta chose to give the starring role in her narrative to shallow, self-obsessed, privileged Meadow - the poorest choice from an already sparsely populated pool - secured Innocents and Others's place among the worst books I have read this year.

This is not to say that Spiotta can't write; she can, and does, beautifully on occasion:

"A lie of invention, a lie about yourself, should not be called a lie. It needs a different word. It is maybe a fabule, a kind of wish-story, something almost true, a mist of the possible where nothing was yet there. With elements both stolen and invented—which is to say, invented. And it has to feel more dream than lie as you speak it."

This theme of self-invention, the mutability of identity, is at the heart of this book, and what a timely theme it is. Too bad that the lies Meadow, Carrie, and Jelly tell about themselves are no more interesting than their realities.

I received a free copy of Innocents and Others from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
1 vote BrandieC | Jun 4, 2016 |
Is it reductionist to say Spiotta’s work is a response to so much media being readily available to creative types for the first time in history? Think of the role of internet in Eat the Document. Yeah, that’s reductionist. Innocents and Others is a book about friendships, and how we build ourselves with images we’ve consumed. There is a lot here about female beauty standards that we’ve read before but not with such delicacy. I’m a cis hetero male so I’ll let others comment more about that. What I’m not hearing people say is that this is a novel about haves and have-nots. There is a spectrum of desire and fulfillment in this book. It was wonderful. I didn’t get it at first. Another caveat is that this book is so packed with film buff minutiae that it might lack context to readers that are not film buffs. Luckily, we live in an age when so much media readily at our... If you’re lucky enough to be one of the haves. Or perhaps, like Dylan, you threw it all away. ( )
  librarianbryan | May 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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“What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking at what is to be seen?”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden
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For Agnes
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This is a love story.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"The most ambitious, accomplished, and beguiling novel yet from the author of the National Book Award finalist Eat the Document and the National Books Critics Circle Award finalist Stone Arabia. Innocents and Others is a riveting story about three women looking for meaning in friendship, work, and love--"Dana Spiotta is a major unnervingly intelligent writer" (Joy Williams, author of The Quick and the Dead). They've always been friends, and they both become filmmakers: Meadow, who makes documentaries, and Carrie, who makes popular movies with a feminist slant. They grew up together in LA, sharing an obsessive love of film. Their friendship is complicated, but their devotion to each other trumps their wildly different approaches to work and to being in the world. Their lives collide with Jelly, a woman whose most meaningful encounters happen on the phone. Jelly cold calls powerful men and seduces them not through sex but through listening. All the women grapple with the consequences of their actions and with the question of how to be good: a good artist, a good lover, a good friend, a good mother. They all fall short, but as they struggle toward an acceptance of their limits, they approach a kind of release. A startlingly acute observer of the way we live now, Spiotta is a "wonderfully gifted writer with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadnesses of contemporary life, and an unerring ear for how people talk and try to cope today" (The New York Times). She is masterful at evoking the complexity of identity, the corrosive nature of technology, the tyranny of the body, and the enduring longing for connection. Innocents and Others is an ambitious and unforgettable new novel, "a literary marvel ... her aim is nothing less than redemption, and she delivers" (Mary Karr, author Lit and The Liars' Club)"--"From the strikingly original National Book Award nominee, a riveting novel set in Los Angeles and New York that focuses on three women--how they define themselves, how they create meaningful work, how they love"--

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