Book Review: Pure Hollywood and other stories by Christine Schutt

Pure Hollywood: And Other Stories

Author: Christine Schutt

Publisher: Grove Atlantic

Genre: Short Stories, Fiction

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Blurb (as on Goodreads):

“With terse sentences that read like poetry, Schutt strips each scene of excess context and cuts to the heart of the moment…Schutt’s haunting yet lyrical words linger long after the final page.”–Los Angeles Times

Hailed by George Saunders as “a truly gifted writer,” with Pure Hollywood & Other Stories, Pulitzer Prize finalist and O Henry Prize winner Christine Schutt returns to the short story form that launched her acclaimed career and her inimitable style that John Ashbery once described as “pared down but rich, dense, fevered, exactly right and even eerily beautiful.”

In 11 captivating tales, Pure Hollywood brings us into private worlds of corrupt familial love, intimacy, longing, and danger. From an alcoholic widowed actress living in desert seclusion, to a young mother whose rejection of her child has terrible consequences, a newlywed couple who ignore the violent warnings of a painter burned by love, to an eerie portrait of erotic obsession, each story in Pure Hollywood is an imagistic snapshot of what it means to live and learn love and hurt.

In league with JD Salinger, Katherine Mansfield and Guy De Maupassant, in Pure Hollywood Schutt gives us sharply suspenseful and masterfully dark interior portraits of ordinary lives, infused with her signature observation and surprise. Timeless, incisive, and precise, these tales are a rush of blood to the head, portals through which we open our eyes and see the world anew.

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Pure Hollywood 

The story of a 28-year-old actress, Mimi married to a 69-year-old businessman Arnie. Arnie dies of a heart attack and Mimi finds herself in midst of a chaos, created by her own heart. She has difficulty coping up with Arnie’S death. The story also exploits the complicated and almost intimate relationship which she shares with her brother. Mimi tries to revisit her past but faces strange situations which push her further into the darkness.

The Hedges

Dick and Lolly are on a vacation with their two-year-old son. But all is not well. Jonathan stays sick most of the time and Lolly is a terrible mother. She complains about everything and only cares about herself. Dick, on the other hand, tries really hard to be a father and a husband. This is a tragic story written along extremely simple and bland lines. I was surprised by the plot twist and the sudden realization that the situation just went south.

Species of special concern

Nancy cork,  a woman passionate about a multitude of things such as the accordion, dogs and her plants-which mean the world to her. Present day scenario-Nancy is bedridden and her husband Cork, tries to take care of plants just like she used to. He is loving, caring and doesn’t want a life without her. But that’s not a choice he can make.

He was ready and however hesitantly he might have added to go back to Boston, he was ready but for the going back itself.The return trip meant driving away in the dark, well before dawn, so as not to see what he was leaving behind in Maine, which was his garden, a pride, a comfort, a habit—an obsession.

A Happy Rural Seat of Various View: Lucinda’s Garden

Nick and Pie are newly married. They are happy together, or at least that’s what they claim until one day Pie is missing and no one has any clue about her whereabouts. A short story about love, loss and a mysterious man.

The Duchess of Albany

Grieving over her dead husband, the protagonist finds it hard to live with her old, pet dog ‘Pink’. she has a constant fear resonating around her, a fear of outliving everyone. Her children, twins, haven’t visited her in years and they call her once in a while, only to ask her to stop living. But ‘Pink’ is her companion now, in sickness and in health and she doesn’t want to lose him, but on some days, she wants him dead.

Family Man

Mass stands by the window of his cottage and revisits the hard days of the past, and compares it with the life he has built for himself, This is more of a passing thought rather than a story.

Where you live, When you need me?

The story of Ella and murdered babies. I have no idea what happened in between.

Burst Pods, Gone-By, Tangled Aster

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The most distinct feature of the author’s writing is the bland way she presents her facts. There’s no engagement with the characters. even if you thought you did, the ending is so flat that it’s very difficult to imagine the complex situations and events. This happens with every story in this anthology. The plots are extremely unpredictable and there’s no justification for anything. Each story looks likes they have been abruptly taken out of the respective characters lives.

This particular bunch is so immature, and childish. I love the author’s knack for creating usual plot twists, and I would definitely read something else by the author before passing a verdict on her or her work. But this collection was more of a drunk teenager trying to write. There’s no beginning, and there’s certainly no conclusion to the stories.

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Release Date: March 13th, 2018

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