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Nothing Lost Hardcover – May 4, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The last novel of the late Dunne, who died in December 2003, reads rather like a smorgasbord of his previous nonfiction work doused with a heavy sauce of "ripped from the headlines" plotlines. The central narrative, which concerns the trial of Duane Lajoie for the supposedly racially motivated torture and murder of a black man, Edgar Parlance, in a Great Plains state referred to as South Midland, is garnished with observations (like the comment about Midlanders "with 56-inch waists, the product of bad weather, too little exercise, too much television, and too much sugar-saturated junk food") echoing Dunne's famous New Yorker story about the murder of Brandon Teena in Nebraska. Max Cline is a jaundiced ex-prosecutor-gay, Jewish and unsentimental-hired to be part of Duane Lajoie's defense team. Teresa Kean, Duane's chief attorney, is a former victims' rights advocate. Duane's legal fees are being covered by his half sister, Carlyle, a rich, famous and wildly spoiled model. The trial is an echt-American carnival of media bunkum, with the prosecutor's Ann Coulter-esque wife, Poppy McClure, trying to milk it for political advantage; Carlyle using it as a career booster; Kean and Max trying to manage their over-the-top client; and Max trying to penetrate the cool surface of Kean's demeanor to reveal the secret that animates her. Dunne loads his story with wonderful phrases, but his satire of Midwestern yahoos and the various creepy and cretinous habits of the rich and newsworthy is a bit too dyspeptic to be penetrating. This fast read is a lesser coda to a career rich in better fictions, such as True Confessions.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Nothing Lost is Dunne’s last novel—he recently died at 71—and most reviewers found it a fitting end to an illustrious career. Its opening chapters may weigh the reader down a bit with details and character introductions, but when the narrative takes off, it proves well worth the wait. Critics praised Dunne’s ability to combine riveting storytelling with dead-on social commentary. A few found Nothing Lost too caustic for comfort, the sharpness of Dunne’s satire destroying the novel’s emotional impact. For most, however, it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, the work of a keen observer whose insight will be missed.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; New title edition (May 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400041430
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400041435
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.3 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,813,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

People the author pretends to like, but his scorn shows through: Gays.
D. C. Carrad
Also there is humor and compassion in his writing; comic writing with a touch of sadness.
Thomas Engh
The dialogue, which is probably typical for Dunne, is too clever by half.
malibu reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on May 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
John Gregory Dunne was a greatly underappreciated American writer at the time of his death in December 2003. His novel about the Black Dahlia case, "True Confessions" is a masterpiece of neo-noir and black comedy (forget about the dull movie version with DeNiro and Duvall.) His searing, direly funny "Dutch Shea, Jr." is a classic waiting to be rediscovered. "Nothing Lost" is set in the same fictional universe as "The Red White, and Blue" and "Playland". Those books tended to be longer on atmosphere than story, but "Nothing Lost" has the snappy surprise of his earlier work. It's Dunne's fictional version of those sensational, media-driven criminal trials of the 1990's. In a fictional midwestern state, a poor African-American man is tortured and murdered by some lowlife young white men in the horribly familiar manner of Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, or James Bird. Because one of the accused turns out to be the brother of a notorious teen supermodel the media is further sucked into the case. The model, Carlyle, seems to be based on Paris Hilton; a conservative congresswoman appears to be modeled on Ariana Huffington before her recent conversion to the left. (Another lady talk show host character, who has a lesbian affair with the congresswoman, seems to be the Ann Coulter figure, so to speak.)
It turns out that eveyone involved, including the dead man, has secrets to hide, secrets that come back and bite them at the worst possible times. What prevents this book from being Dunne's best are a couple of things. In this one his bitterness and misanthropy are out of control.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Engh on May 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found this an excellent novel. Great characters, wonderful plot, and a profound rendering of various social classes. Having worked in the criminal justice system for thirty years noone writes about this milieu better than Dunne. Also there is humor and compassion in his writing; comic writing with a touch of sadness. Dunne will be greatly missed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Susan Lantz on June 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm at home on bed rest and desperate for something good to read. This book did the trick.. The narrator is smart, funny, and clearly aware that it is next to impossible to do much about most of the evil sleaziness of the world. Certainly it is impossible to make changes in individual lives, one at a time. (Or maybe I'm just jaded, too. Some may call it maturity.) Clearly, the narrator is the most decent character in a novel full of morally bankrupt people (from both sides of the tracks). Ironically, his career is blindsided due to what others perceive to be questionable morals. Anyway, join Max as he watches pathetic people with and without class, power, and agency screw up their lives even more than they already have, and help him make sense of it. Great literature this ain't, but a smart, fun, cynical read it is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Totally disagree with AUGUSTABOOKMAN. ( I TOO AM A HARVARD GRAD !
The College.) I write a mini review of each of the hundreds of books I read annually. This is it for "Nothing Lost":
His last book; posthumously published.
A complex story,beautifully constructed; rich, clever dialogue; many threads to surprise you, but all are brought together in the end. The reader is caught from the first paragraph. One of those books which you are anxious to get back to. Given a choice the book takes precedent over other activities. We will miss you John. Several years since your last effort,but well worth the wait
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Nothing Lost contains all the right elements: a good plot, good characters, weighty themes, and fine sentence-by-sentence writing. Unfortunately, these elements do not coalesce into an excellent novel. The book is, finally, a hash. Plot lines are disjunct; speaking voices are unidentifiable; transitions are often nonexistent. It feels as if someone took a great novel, threw the pages into the air and then printed the clumps that came down together in no particular order. Dunne did not see the book through to final page proofs, but a strong editorial hand could have made this book competitive with True Confessions, Dunne's masterpiece in fiction.

Having said that, I must also say that I finished it and that I enjoyed it and that I admire its constituent elements. It is sad that the book's narrative potential was not reached.
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