I suspect I’m probably way behind the rest of the world here, but I just finished the great, great novel Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Set both in a fictional Italian coastal village in 1962, at the very moment Cleopatra is being filmed in Rome with Elizabeth Taylor, and present-day Hollywood, with all the absurdities of the movie business and our modern world at the forefront, it’s at once complex and a desirably easy read. I found it completely intoxicating. Walter’s characters are brilliant and perfectly assembled, including Richard Burton himself. His storytelling is brilliant too, and his writing is seriously smart and funny. So taken am I with Jess Walter that I have just picked up his newest collection of stories, We Live in Water. Can’t wait!

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (HarperCollins Publishers, 2012)