Ten Days in the Hills Paperback – Apr 8 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Smiley (A Thousand Acres) goes Hollywood in this scintillating tale of an extended Decameron-esque L.A. house party. Gathering at the home of washed-up director Max the morning after the 2003 Academy Awards are his Iraq-obsessed girlfriend, Elena; his movie-diva ex-wife Zoe and her yoga instructor–cum–therapist–cum– boyfriend Paul; Max's insufferably PC daughter, Isabel, and his feckless agent, Stoney, who are conducting a secret affair; Zoe's oracular mother, Delphine; and Max's boyhood friend and token Republican irritant Charlie. They watch movies, negotiate their clashing diets and health regimens, indulge in a roundelay of lasciviously detailed sexual encounters and, most of all, talk—holding absurd, meandering, beguiling conversation about movies, Hollywood, relationships, the war and the state of the world. Through it all, they compulsively reimagine daily life as art: Max dreams of making My Lovemaking with Elena, an all-nude, sexually explicit indie talk-fest inspired by My Dinner with Andre, but Stoney wants him to remake the Cossack epic Taras Bulba. Smiley delivers a delightful, subtly observant sendup of Tinseltown folly, yet she treats her characters, their concern with compelling surfaces and their perpetual quest to capture reality through artifice, with warmth and seriousness. In their shallowness, she finds a kind of profundity. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Smiley has a gift for entwining eroticism with humanism and sparkling wit to form deliciously complex and slyly satirical fiction. And what opulent realms she loots: academia, horse racing, real estate, and now Hollywood. Here Smiley crafts dialogue every bit as provocative as her detailed sex scenes, and, once again, makes ingenious use of a literary antecedent, this time using as a template Boccaccio's Decameron. While Boccaccio's group of 10 women and men hope to escape the Black Death by sequestering themselves for 10 days in a villa outside Florence, Smiley quarantines her characters in a mansion high in the hills of Hollywood as the U.S. invades Iraq. Ensconced in luxury if plagued with moral quandaries, they sort out complex family and romantic relationships and argue over the war. Movie director Max, 58, has found contentment with Elena, 50, a charmingly commonsensical writer of unexpectedly intelligent how-to books, and the novel's ethical center. Then there's Elena's mischievous son; Max's socially conscious daughter; Max's ex, the supremely beautiful singer and actress Zoe; her imperial Jamaican mother; and Zoe's current lover, an annoyingly serene guru. A neighbor tells gossipy tales of old Hollywood, Max's agent pitches an unlikely project, and a friend from Max's boyhood irritates everyone. Each thorny character has an intriguing backstory, feelings run high, and Smiley is regally omnipotent as she advocates for art, objects to war, and considers tricky questions of power and spirit, love and compassion. Archly sexy and brilliant. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In an homage to the Decameron, the conversations among 10 people in a magnificent and isolated house in the Hollywood hills ramble around diets, ex's, psychobabble and movies, are brought to a stop, but only temporarily, as news of the war keeps intruding. From an interview before the Iraq invasion, Smiley stated she was going to write about Hollywood, which I thought would be thinly veiled autobiography about the filming of 'A Thousand Acres': adding the backdrop adds perhaps some needed substance to the froth.
I find her style similar to John Updike's, chronicling current mores and people with entitlement, but with more sympathy to her characters: there's usually something to like in most of them, even the greedy diva and the pompous guru, unlike Updike's Rabbits.
I love Smiley's descriptions of couples, which make me feel warm and reminiscent, and made me question my own definition of pornography. After a passage of what I thought crossed the line came a point to ponder: a middle-aged protagonist, Elena, is upset that her 20 year-old son skipped college to act in a classmate's porn movie and also that his actions are supported by the rest of the group, yet encourages her lover to film themselves making love.
As in love and war, where do we draw our own lines?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The other risk Smiley takes is her choice of characters. Rich, snotty, Hollywood types with huge houses and too much sex. What's not to hate? But I admired the writing and the concept behind the work, if not the characters themselves, and to me her novel is a fascinating experiment. Suspend the need to relate to the characters on a personal level and the book comes alive in a very unique way. That's what I thought.
I wish I had read my fellow suckers' reviews and saved my money and my time. I got to page 35 and couldn't remember much of anything, because there is nothing memorable. I kept reading, but it only got more dreary. Amazing that Knopf published this MS that should have been left on the cutting room floor as a novel out-take. An equally good alternative would have been to have all the copies put into a burn bag in the CIA so that no one would have even known it existed. The author should be ashamed. The editor should be dismissed.
This book may have some use other than recycling. You can serve the Green Revolution by stoking your wood-burning stove.