Skip to main content

Book Recommendation: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

Are you looking for one last literary beach read for your summer? If so, might I recommend Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins. It's a juicy read. Complete with a tiny 1960s Italian seaside village and present-day Hollywood, it has just the right mix of pure, indulgent entertainment value, coupled with fabulous writing to provide that lovely reading-by-the-beach feel where you're slightly illuminated, deeply relaxed, and in the mood for a little escape. But a literary one. You know; one where you don't have to be embarrassed by the book cover. One where you feel a little wiser at the end because of something revealed in the writing. Take this little excerpt for instance:

"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!"

Genius. 


I must confess that my reading is perhaps a touch colored by the fact some of it was in fact poolside: my book club (I love my book club!) decided to take a road trip for our last meeting so that we could meet up at Health Spa Napa Valley. Good grief is that place delightful: you can get a workout in inside the shiny gym, then hit the super-clean, eucalyptus-scented steam room, partake of all their amenities, all before heading out to the pool and hot tub. Oh: And you can bring in your own bottle of wine to enjoy poolside. 

Huge bonus: members get big discounts, and so do their guests! So our whole club got in for a very reasonable day rate, which makes the whole experience that much more awesome. While not dipping in the pool, talking about the book club book (Song of Achilles, to be reviewed later), or perusing trashy magazines (will Kim Kardashian never go away?), I was reading Beautiful Ruins. With temps in the high 70s, the occasional sound of the wine train passing by behind us, and a plastic cup of Prosecco beside me in my lounge chair, it would have been hard to dislike this book. But that's the true test of a literary beach read: does it amplify the gorgeousness of reading near a body of water, or distract? Beautiful Ruins only succeeded in making my afternoon even more fabulous.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My Litquake 2012 Report

I've been avoiding putting this together, because a part of me really doesn't want this year's Litquake festival to be over already.  The other part of me is still cranky-tired, wandering around trying to get to all those projects I said I'd get to after Litquake, and feeling post-Christmas like.

In short, this year's Litquake was AMAZING.  Every year has been awesome, but this one was particularly special for me because I got to actually help plan the awesome.  As a volunteer during the festival for the past several years, I definitely felt like I contributed to making each event I helped at awesome, but this year, being on the committee,* I got to witness the tremendous build up to the festival that happens the whole year prior.  The amount of love, sweat and time that goes into it is incredible, and I'm not sure I've ever been part of something so cool.  Which is not to say I'm not still cranky-tired and looking forward to feeling fully recovered.

For Mom, Twenty-One Years Later

I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares refreshments.
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.



Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…

Time, as understood in the fourth trimester

Having a baby is not unlike accidentally slipping into a science fiction universe, everything you know is so completely upended. I wrote an essay about how my sense of time shifted out from under me in the first months of my daughter's life. 



Excerpts in italics are from the essay The Beginning Of Time, by Stephen W. Hawking

1.
The time scale of the universe is very long compared to that for human life. It was therefore not surprising that until recently, the universe was thought to be essentially static and unchanging in time.

The Longest Shortest Time is the name of a podcast on parenting that I heard about several years before becoming a parent and filed away mentally. “The days are long but the years are short” is another phrase used to both comfort and cajole new parents. The implication is that parenting shifts your experience of time, as if life simply advancing in years wasn’t enough to do the same. One hour of an infant screaming inconsolably after her two month immunizatio…