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Nothing Lost Hardcover – May 4, 2004
100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime
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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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Top Customer Reviews
1. People the author doesn't like (and it shows): Midwesterners, Republicans, football players and coaches, prosecutors, people who live in mobile homes, Vietnam veterans, prison guards, TV reporters, models, bodyguards, cops, the entire population of Las Vegas and Hollywood.
2. People the author pretends to like, but his scorn shows through: Gays.
3. Silly plot tricks: Far to numerous to mention. Several years ago the National Lampoon did a satire on how to write a novel, recommending that if you wrote your characters into a blind alley with no way forward, you should just end your book by saying "Suddenly, he was run over by a bus". The author seems to have taken that advice, not realizing it was satire. This is a book that has no ending, but just stops. Waste of money; avoid.
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. Dunne thought that if you lived in the middle of the country, away from the sacred precincts of LA and New York, you lived in a hell of yokelry and lower-class backwardness. These qualities are bracing and invigorating in his earlier books, but in "Nothing Lost" he seems to hate everything and everyone. A little light and grace would provide some contrast, at least. And the last hundred pages are rushed. Too much happens all at once to be completely convincing. The book has an aura of being unfinished, and it might have been a little better crafted but for Dunne's untimely death. Nevertheless, if you are a fan you don't want to miss Dunne's last effort. It's bleakly entertaining, but if you aren't already familiar with his books you should really start with "True Confessions."