Saturday, May 11, 2013

Summer Reading Pleasure

Once again, as my summer vacation begins, I am looking forward to guiltless reading time.  I have my stack (literal and figurative) of books I hope to enjoy this summer, but I know that all kinds of things happen to reshape the list. For now, I am working on The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout.  I'm also looking forward to Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann  Fowler and maybe even a re-read of The Great Gatsby since the movie's coming out.  I also have my eye on Kent Haruff's Benediction, since I loved Plainsong and Eventide so much.

In the meantime, though, I plan to catch up on reviews of several good reads I've enjoyed lately--not necessarily in the order in which I read them. One I must mention is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  This book popped up on my reading radar, and I'm glad I read it.  The story takes place back and forth between 1962, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were filming Cleopatra and beginning their on again, off again romance that led to more than one marriage.  The main characters, though, are Pasquale, a young Italian man who has inherited the family business, The Adequate View Hotel, in a sparsely populated, practically inaccessible location, and Dee Moray, a young actress who arrives by boat believing she's suffering from stomach cancer. Their stories intertwine with a number of characters,  Michael Deane, a big Hollywood figure about to venture into reality television, his discouraged assistant, a writer down on his luck ready to pitch a script based on the Donner party, and the son born to Dee after leaving Italy.

The novel is built on layers of stories--the characters' individual stories, the movie script, even the one chapter written by Alvis Bender, an American who comes to Pasquale's hotel each year to write--only working and reworking the single chapter.  A real bonus, though, is the material after the novel, including an interview with the author about how he wrote the novel and his own explanation of the long process (fifteen years) of writing this novel.  Walters' notes on the novel provide many valuable lessons for writers wanting to home the craft.  In fact, this novel is one I would suggest to my own students to "read like writers."

Stay tuned this week for the next in my "catching up" series.

1 comment:

susanv said...

I have Beautiful Ruins and Z on Audible to listen to soon. Can't wait. I just re-read The Great Gatsby (Will's copy from when you taught it in HS) and saw the movie. The book, was much, much better of course!! I have The Burgess Boys on my "to read" list too.