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In 1962, on a rocky patch of sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper looks out over the incandescent waters of the sea and spies a woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. He learns that she is an American starlet who is said to be dying. And the story begins again in the present when half a world away, 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 including the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the 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. Gloriously inventive and 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.
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. Review “Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.” (Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic and Empire Falls ) “A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor. . . . reimagines history in a package so appealing we’d be idiots not to buy it.” (Library Journal (starred review) ) “Well-constructed...quirky and entertaining tale of greed, treachery, and love.” (Publishers Weekly ) “This is a blockbuster, with romance, majesty, comedy, smarts, and a cast of thousands. There’s lights, there’s camera, there’s action. If you want anything more from a novel than Jess Walter gives you in Beautiful Ruins, you’re getting thrown out of the theater.” (Daniel Handler, author of Why We Broke Up and creator of Lemony Snicket ) “[N]othing less than brilliant, a tour de force that crosses decades, continents, and genres, to powerful and often hilarious effect....A masterful novel of love, loss, and hard-won hope that satisfies on every level.” (Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk ) “Within a page-turner of a plot, these triumphantly vulnerable characters leap off the page to take up permanent residence in your inner life. The effect is so powerful that to be untouched by Beautiful Ruins might well be like having no inner life at all.” (Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction ) “A brilliant, madcap meditation on fate. . . . Walter’s prose is a joy-funny, brash, witty and rich with ironic twists. He’s taken all of the tricks of the postmodern novel and scoured out the cynicism, making for a novel that’s life-affirming but never saccharine.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review) ) “A marvel, an absolute gem of a beach read that is both hilarious and heartbreaking.” (Huffington Post ) “Walter vividly draws a world both tender and cutthroat, where ambition battles reality, daydreams fight doldrums and sometimes win.” (Interview ) “Lyrical, heartbreaking, and funny . . . Walter closes the deal with such command that you begin to wonder why up till now he’s not often been mentioned as one of the best novelists around. Beautiful Ruins might just correct that oversight.” (Kansas City Star ) “A monument to crazy love . . . Walter [is] a believer in capricious destiny with a fine, freewheeling sense of humor.” (New York Times ) “Expertly scratches the seasonal itch for both literary depth and dazzle.” (Entertainment Weekly ) “A novel with pathos, piercing wit and, most important, the generous soul of a literary classic. . . . Walter has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors.” (Boston Globe ) “Beautiful . . . A shining, imaginative tale . . . Beautiful Ruins shows novelists how it is done.” (The Plain Dealer ) “A literary miracle.” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air ) “His [Walter’s] characters are long-suffering, prone to failure and sometimes at death’s door. But the verve and enthusiasm of this novel, from its let’s-go-everywhere structure to the comedy in the marrow of its sentences, are wholly life-affirming.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune ) “Entrancing novel...Walter’s turns of phrase are as brilliant as his plot twists, making for a compelling, fun read.” (People ) “Beautiful Ruins is satisfying and delicate, a spectacular story of love, frustration, selfish intent, and the patience of the human heart.” (The Stranger ) “[A] high-wire feat of bravura storytelling. . . . [Walter’s] 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.” (New York Times Book Review ) “A beautiful narrative . . . This writer is a genius of the modern American moment.” (Philadelphia Inquirer ) “His masterpiece . . . an interlocking, continent-hopping, decade-spanning novel with heart and pathos to burn, all big dreams, lost loves, deep longings and damn near perfect.” (Salon ) About the Author Jess Walter is the author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, the Edgar Award-winning Citizen Vince, Land of the Blind, and the New York Times Notable Book Over Tumbled Graves. He lives in Spokane, Washington, with his family.
The No. 1 New York Times Bestseller Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins is a gorgeous, glamorous novel set in 1960s Italy and a modern Hollywood studio. The story begins in 1962. Somewhere 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 views an apparition: a beautiful woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an American starlet, he soon learns, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away in Hollywood, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot searching for the woman he last saw at his hotel fifty years before. Gloriously inventive, funny, tender and constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a novel full of fabulous and yet very flawed people, all of them striving towards another sort of life, a future that is both delightful and yet, tantalizingly, seems just out of reach. 'Magic...A monument to crazy love with a deeply romantic heart' New York Times 'A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor' Booklist 'Hilarious and compelling' Esquire
The Financial Lives of the Poets is a comic and heartfelt novel from National Book Award nominee Jess Walter, author of Citizen Vince and The Zero, about how we get to the edge of ruin—and how we begin to make our way back. Walter tells the story of Matt Prior, who’s losing his job, his wife, his house, and his mind—until, all of a sudden, he discovers a way that he might just possibly be able to save it all . . . and have a pretty damn great time doing it.
Once the manufacturing powerhouse of the nation, Detroit has become emblematic of failing cities everywhere—the paradigmatic city of ruins—and the epicenter of an explosive growth in images of urban decay. In Beautiful Terrible Ruins, art historian Dora Apel explores a wide array of these images, ranging from photography, advertising, and television, to documentaries, video games, and zombie and disaster films. Apel shows how Detroit has become pivotal to an expanding network of ruin imagery, imagery ultimately driven by a pervasive and growing cultural pessimism, a loss of faith in progress, and a deepening fear that worse times are coming. The images of Detroit’s decay speak to the overarching anxieties of our era: increasing poverty, declining wages and social services, inadequate health care, unemployment, homelessness, and ecological disaster—in short, the failure of capitalism. Apel reveals how, through the aesthetic distancing of representation, the haunted beauty and fascination of ruin imagery, embodied by Detroit’s abandoned downtown skyscrapers, empty urban spaces, decaying factories, and derelict neighborhoods help us to cope with our fears. But Apel warns that these images, while pleasurable, have little explanatory power, lulling us into seeing Detroit’s deterioration as either inevitable or the city’s own fault, and absolving the real agents of decline—corporate disinvestment and globalization. Beautiful Terrible Ruins helps us understand the ways that the pleasure and the horror of urban decay hold us in thrall.
At 1:59 a.m. in Spokane, Washington—eight days before the 1980 presidential election—Vince Camden pockets his stash of stolen credit cards and drops by an all-night poker game before heading to his witness-protection job dusting crullers at Donut Make You Hungry. Along with a neurotic hooker girlfriend, this is the total sum of Vince's new life. But when a familiar face shows up in town, Vince realizes his sordid past is still too close behind him. During the next unforgettable week, he'll negotiate a coast-to-coast maze of obsessive cops, eager politicians, and assorted mobsters—only to find that redemption might exist, of all places, in the voting booth.
The Zero is a groundbreaking novel, a darkly comic snapshot of our times that is already being compared to the works of Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller. From its opening pages—when hero cop Brian Remy wakes up to find he's shot himself in the head—novelist Jess Walter takes us on a harrowing tour of a city and a country shuddering through the aftershocks of a devastating terrorist attack. As the smoke slowly clears, Remy finds that his memory is skipping, lurching between moments of lucidity and days when he doesn't seem to be living his own life at all. The landscape around him is at once fractured and oddly familiar: a world dominated by a Machiavellian mayor known as "The Boss," and peopled by gawking celebrities, anguished policemen peddling First Responder cereal, and pink real estate divas hyping the spoils of tragedy. Remy himself has a new girlfriend he doesn't know, a son who pretends he's dead, and an unsettling new job chasing a trail of paper scraps for a shadowy intelligence agency known as the Department of Documentation. Whether that trail will lead Remy to an elusive terror cell—or send him circling back to himself—is only one of the questions posed by this provocative yet deeply human novel. From a novelist of astounding talent, The Zero is an extraordinary story of how our trials become our transgressions, of how we forgive ourselves and whether or not we should.
The striking engravings of Julien-David Le Roy's The Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece (1758) first revealed the architectural wonders of ancient Athens to the West. Part architectural theory, part archaeological report, part travelogue, the greatly expanded edition of 1770 -- here translated into English -- is entirely original in its understanding of the spirit of classical Greek architecture and in its influence on the direction of contemporary architectural creation. Book jacket.
Hoping to safeguard themselves during World War II within their villa in Florence, the Rosati family become prisoners in their home instead when the Nazis take over the estate, a situation that leads to a murder investigation years later.