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Everyone's Pretty: A Novel Paperback – January 10, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Born in Boston in 1968; moved to Toronto, Canada with her Egyptologist father and teacher/librarian mother two years later. Lived in Los Angeles (91-94), where she worked as a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications (of Hustler for 2 years; also Busty Beauties, S.W.A.T. (a gun magazine) and Fighting Knives: America's Most Incisive Cutlery Publication. Got a Master's in environmental policy at Duke University. Moved to New York in 1996, where she worked as a fundraiser for the Natural Resources Defense Council; then went freelance and moved to Tucson, where she now lives and writes full-time on an isolated spread in the desert, in 1999
Spends summers in Anchorage, Alaska. Contributed a number of personal essays to anthologies over the past several years, some still forthcoming, including one about fairytales, one about Star Wars ('03), one about literary books ('04), GIVE OUR REGARDS TO THE ATOMSMASHERS! (Pantheon, 2004), one about the environmental movement ('04), one about lost friendships ('05).

From The Washington Post

After a year of contentious elections, natural disasters and polarized opinions, it's no wonder the current mood seems to be focused on aftermath. Picking up the pieces and making sense of drastic change are both necessary and cathartic reactions, whether in life or in literature. Many readers may overcome the confusion by looking for fiction that affirms their beliefs and offers a healthy dose of escapism. Others choose to commune with the unending chaos around them.

Everyone's Pretty, Lydia Millet's fourth novel (following 2002's My Happy Life), succeeds remarkably (for the most part) at blending realism and escapism. Taken at surface level, its presentation of over-the-top characters placed in bizarre situations is supremely wacky, but underneath is an astute examination of how contemporary society fosters alienation and loneliness so acute that it takes outsized actions to allow any possibility of driving the demons away.

Over three days in Los Angeles, the kaleidoscopic narrative brings together five individuals whose lives already intersect but grow further tangled and, in some cases, irrevocably frayed. At this quintet's heart is Dean Decetes, a pornographer by choice and messianic vessel by delusion, who spends most of his time in varying degrees of drunken stupor. (But then, if you thought you were a messiah, wouldn't you?) His bizarre, tilting-at-windmills personality is on display from the first as he muses over his decision to stay gaunt: "Fat men were often powerful. . . . Their girth did not appear unseemly, flanked by the pillars and arches of state. Thin men, however, were the revolutionaries and the seers. . . . Emaciation and longevity went hand in hand."

Decetes's desire for immortality is thwarted and perverted -- sometimes literally -- at every turn. He is beaten to a pulp on more than one occasion, fired from his job as a stringer for a smut magazine and, after a stint in jail, inexplicably acquires a sex-obsessed midget for a mascot. None of these things endears him to his sister, Bucella. She desperately struggles to be pious and moral, gives serious consideration to joining a convent, but only succeeds at being clueless -- especially with regard to her not-so-secret crush on her boss at her desultory workplace, Statistical Diagnostics.

The other main players include Alice, whose promiscuity is underlaid by deep depression and tangible loneliness; Phillip, a quasi-masochistic Christian Scientist bonded in an unconventional marriage where self-denial rules his life, but not his wife's; and Ginny, a teenage math prodigy fueled by formulas and parental loathing, whose escape from her parents leads to the obligatory loss of innocence, although never approaching a clichéd level.

Everyone's Pretty could have declined into pointless farce, but Millet doesn't pre-judge or pepper the narrative with outside preconceptions. Morality is a shifting concept, but in the end it's left to the individual to determine how much or how little he or she possesses. That's why none of the characters can truly be laughed at; the situations they find themselves in veer from hilarious to cringe-inducing, but Millet never makes any of them the butt of the world's current joke.

The scene that catapults Ginny into flight has been staged many times before, but Millet expertly demonstrates how humiliating it must be for a teenage girl to have her mother show up in class, accusing her of all manners of depravity. She uses all the senses to depict Ginny's horror at seeing her mother "in her orange dressing gown with egg down the front and the rabbit slippers," even depicting the "rotten-egg gas" that assaults the girl's nose. Such descriptions add a vivid pungency, making the inherent embarrassment even worse and the scene successful.

By keeping authorial distance, Millet lets the characters tell their own stories and interact in increasingly twisted ways until finally the climax arrives -- or does it? The group of five go their separate ways, some truly moving on while others, like Decetes, find their own path to transcendence and glory. Still, one wonders whether each respective journey is really over. Millet ends the narrative but doesn't tie up every loose end; some remain suspended, while others are simply let go.

Paradoxically, Millet's exaggerated vision of the world offers a closer view of reality than would a more straightforward one. With a sharp eye for small details, a keen sense of the absurd and strong empathy for its creations, Everyone's Pretty is both prism and truth.

Reviewed by Sarah Weinman
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press (January 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932360778
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932360776
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,314,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Deanna Dahlsad on June 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Rumored to be inspired by author Lydia Millet's two-year stint working as a copy editor at Hustler Magazine, `Everybody's Pretty' centers around the world of freelance porn reviewer Dean Decetes. While that may grab your attention, what keeps it is Dean's delusional status.

Told from the point of view of 5 characters (Dean, Bucella, Phillip, Ginny & Alice), all the characters weave in & out of each other's lives in a strange dance, searching for the meaning of life. Well, if not the meaning of life, searching for something more significant than what they have. Well, if you don't buy that metaphoric crap, then this is a search for God & sex.

God & sex are pitted against each other, mistaken for each other, and viewed as means to one another. Some obsess on God's ways, while some abstain from God's ways. Some abstain from sex, some are reborn in sex. Some abstain from God & sex. Some believe the are The Savior because of sex. Some believe in math as The Savior, but have diaphragms anyway.

The author has created the truly bizarre, but it's all plausible. It's epic & fantastic, yet each character is so rooted in some clinical state that you suddenly feel that it's all too real. It's sharp & biting, cruel when necessary, and while this certainly exposes the soft underbellies of the people, they retain if not dignity (and I must say, there may be indignant characters, there isn't much dignity!), some sense of respect or warmth, for Millet never goes in for the kill. Well, technically, since there is death, she does kill, but, oh what the hell -- this book is full of contradictions, humor & irony. Above all it's absolutely captivating.

I picked it up, read it almost in one day -- and I was pissed when I had to stop.
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Everyone's Pretty is a great read. Millet's prose is fun and engaging, clever and insightful. The characters and storyline are reminiscent of Tom Robbins and Carl Hiaasen, and the protagonist, Dean Ducetes and his midget cohort, Ken, could have found their way from one of Bukowski's works. Sex and religion and the collateral damage that comes from living in LA are prevalent themes of the novel. Ducetes, a hedonist nonpareil, is a self-anointed messiah, while his sister Bucella, pure and naïve as they come, is a follower of Christ, devoted like no other. In rapid succession, through a series of narrative vignettes, they and the story's wayward cast of other eclectics undergo a variety of haphazard encounters and off-the-wall scenarios that keep the reader entertained and laughing. Grab yourself a copy and get reading.
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What a fantastic little book! Not only is it a very funny read, but the characters are so richly drawn that they'll stay with you for quite a while. A couple of weeks after reading the book, I still find myself contemplating who should play each character if it is ever made into a movie. Now I know that it's doubtful that this "under the radar" gem would ever make it to the silver screen, but I couldn't help imagining either Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Jack Black as the vulgar, yet magnetic personality of Dean Descetes. Give this book a try, I guarantee that you'll be quickly passing it along to your friends as a "must" read.
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I started this book and never got past the 50th page. It is strange and crude at best. Not a fan of the writing style either. 2 thumbs down.
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