Jess Walter


Beautiful Ruins


Once again Iíve got to acknowledge Walterís skills: I donít know that Iíve read a novel that better integrates its characters, weaving decades, personalities and relationships with flawless technique.


But it wasnít really a novel for me. I couldnít relate to any of these larger than life characters, not an everyman among them. Iím not saying people like this donít exist, but, perhaps fortunately for me, things like alcohol or drug addiction (or warfare, or adultery, or my film career) havenít been major shaping events in my life. And, unlike Walter and many others (and good luck to them), Iím not particularly excited by quintessential 50s celebrity Ė any more than I am by contemporary ones (Burton/Taylor Ö Brad/Ang Ö whatever). I get the impression Walter loves some of the films of that period, including the lauding of Mediterranean beaches as pinnacles of sophistication and charm, and he goes a good way to evoking it. But this stuff just doesnít particularly resonate with me.


I hope Iíll come across a Walter sometime that is preoccupied with, well, one of my preoccupations Ė the guy is hugely talented. But so far Iím left a bit detached by his subject matter.


January 2014