I just finished the novel “Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walters. It was a moving story, or collection of stories, that all come to a climax in the end. The stories explore horizons between the present, past and future, between longing and regret, between what we want and what we get. The writing is powerful, evoking nostalgia, while not getting campy. It pulls back curtains on the end of the stories and what you find is that the story doesn’t end, it continues. I am reminded of the line in Dead Poet’s Society where Mr. Keating challenges his students with the line “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.”

The story “Beautiful Ruins”, bounces seamlessly between past and present, a device that allows Walter to demonstrate the concept that the end of the story isn’t the end of the story. He shows how things of beauty turn into ruins and out of ruins may rise more substantial beauty, if we are willing to be humbled by it. One of the characters is a Hollywood producer who fights the movement of time and with all of his attempts to appear youthful, he looks like a freak.

I was moved by the book, and I suspect that the story was more powerful having many years of my life in my past. Walter was very observant.

In a strategy at the end of the book, he completes many of the stories he has been telling throughout the book,and illustrates in a visceral way how disappointing endings can be, mainly because of their eventual slide into obscurity. Like the ruins of great empires and wars, what was most notable turns to stone. The author helps me understand that what matters is now, that the present is where we live and love, succeed and fail, grow and stagnate. There is no time like the present.

Advertisements