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And yet it eludes us completely,
This review is from: Beautiful Ruins: A Novel (Hardcover)
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The "beautiful ruins" of this affecting story include not only its physical setting, in a tiny coastal village destined for extinction (Porto Vergogna or the Port of Shame), but also the larger than life characters, including a "real" Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who appear as supporting actors to the main story of the more ordinary cast: the arrestingly beautiful blonde starlet Dee Moray and the young innkeeper who falls for her, Pasquale Tursi, and many many other memorable characters, their children, their friends, their colleagues.
The novel moves back and forth in time between 1962 and a somewhat vaguely defined "recently." The juxtaposition made possible by this slippage in time serves to remind the reader that all things beautiful eventually become ruins and that many ruins (conversely) were once things of beauty. That double-focus is the source of much of the book's poignancy. The novel's many other, mostly youthful comic characters, associated with its second setting in contemporary Hollywood, do help to balance the book's almost unbearable sadness and lend it a sense of the future that keep it from tipping into tragedy. One character, the "dead-gazed" geriatric Michael Deane, miracle of plastic surgery, tells the haunting cautionary tale of what happens if one rejects the embrace of time.
The result is a beautifully composed, highly entertaining philosophical novel, tightly unified despite its wide-ranging plot. I think the point of the final (title) chapter, which attempts to wrap up all the loose ends, is that, despite the pleasure such storytelling brings, it is finally impossible to harmonize all the notes, to make public all the private losses and gains. As the epigraph of that chapter, taken from Milan Kundera, reflects, nothing is "more obvious, more tangible, than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact." I actually had to stop reading parts of the end of this book because I was crying so much I was having trouble seeing the print. A powerful, moving, but still very funny book.
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Initial post: Dec 16, 2012 1:18:10 PM PST
Randal J Pinko says:
In re: your final paragraph, well said and agreed.
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