Episode 89 — Jess Walter


Jess Walter is the guest.  He’s a National Book Award nominee and the author of several novels, the most recent of which is called Beautiful Ruins, now available from Harper.

Helen Schulman, writing for the New York Times Book Review, calls it

A high-wire feat of bravura storytelling … You’re going to love this book … The surprising and witty novel of social criticism that flows away from its lush, romantic opening offers so much more than just entertainment … stirs the heart and amuses as it also rescues us from the all too human pain that is the motor of this complex and ever-evolving novel … Walter is a talented and original writer.

And Steve Almond, writing for The Boston Globe, says

Weds the grand dramatic impulses of the cinematic blockbuster to the psychological interiority of high literary art. The result is a page-turner that doubles as an elegant meditation on fame, desire, duty, and fate … Walter has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors. He has crafted a novel with pathos, piercing wit and, most important, the generous soul of a literary classic … Beautiful Ruins will endure.

And Richard Russo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, says

Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.

Topics of conversation include:  Los Angeles, Hollywood, screenwriting, storytelling, movies, romance, brand management, profanity, Edgar Award, pigeonholing, Twitter, shame, fear, respect, Don DeLillo, music, neural pathways, Loverboy, David Bowie, National Book Award, reading, judging, great vs. good, simplicity, emotion, efficiency, Marilynne Robinson, Aleksandar Hemon, polar exploration, Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions, basketball, self-education, Anna Karenina, not finishing, Ruby Ridge, journalism, discipline, chops, ghostwriting, 9/11, Bernard Kerik, blue collar work ethic, confidence, external validation, reviews, concentration, dissolution, frustration, darkness, the popping of vanities, humor, Iraq War, Spokane, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, writing routines, topical fiction, McSweeney’s, and generational poverty.

Monologue topics:  Carl Sagan, motes of dust, sunbeams, infinity, smallness, insignificance, and maintaining one’s sense of humor.