Fans of Schutt, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, expect to be thrown off balance and relish the sensation. Indeed, this collection of 11 stories, stretched on a taut diagonal between Maine and Los Angeles, nimbly kicks us sideways at every turn. Schutt’s stories—awash in money, lush foliage and coyly named houses—menace and sometimes subsume their desperate characters ... The stories are full of trapdoors, but Schutt’s craft is seamless.
Several of the stories are miniatures, almost vignettes. What they all have in common is a visceral, unsettling clarity that makes them stick ... While Schutt is known as a stylist, she’s also a purveyor of suspense this time around. The result is that these moody, often prickly, stories can veer into unexpected territory, keeping us on our toes ... Surely, contentment is not the standard recipe for narratives that explore its opposite, especially stories that are so complex and nuanced. But whatever brings such stories to the page, readers can only hope for more of it.
Her many fans will surely admire Christine Schutt’s Pure Hollywood: and Other Stories,” but readers new to Schutt might want to brace themselves ... Schutt’s descriptions can startle: “Opalesce is a gauzy word to describe what the sky is doing.” But few proverbial breaks are given.
Schutt’s Los Angeles, replete with inextinguishable fires and gun-wielding children, reflects the content of today’s news stories, yet the prosody of her phrases, the sinuous assonance and the juxtapositions of images, points to her literary roots in twentieth century New York ... The intense focus [Gordon] Lish urged his authors to pay to the sound of their sentences plays out in Schutt’s nimble and voluble prose ... In this book, perhaps the best of her career, she has drawn together her various talents and methodologies into something singular ... Schutt’s flirtation with postmodernism is so moving and effective it may make the reader close Pure Hollywood and look at its sulphur-pink cover ... Whatever their surroundings, the inhabitants of Pure Hollywood are fascinatingly impure and always worth reading about.
Brevity, tautness, rigor, surprise: these are the commonly accepted qualities of a good short story, and all are on display in Christine Schutt’s new collection Pure Hollywood ... Widely praised for her craftsmanship, Schutt delivers precise and novel observations ... Her attention to sound and wordcraft isn’t idle aestheticism; as in poetry, it establishes mood and strengthens the sensual to produce in the reader the feeling of ideas or emotions too complex, delicate, or strange to say outright ... Distasteful characters can still engage a reader’s interest and sympathy, but at times Schutt’s linguistic dexterity proves stronger than her characterization.
Nobody writes like Schutt, the National Book Award–finalist author of Florida, and her latest collection is the perfect entry point for readers new to her work ... Schutt is always in control in this work by an experimental American writer of unparalleled style.
Author of three novels and two short story collections, Christine Schutt, with the exacting grace of a water-skier, takes us prickly places we don’t want to go in her latest story collection ... Schutt’s...ten stories vary greatly in length, but they share an atmosphere, always carrying the sensation of the West...Their plots often pebble like water over skin and dissipate. And the pace is a sprint, always toward the horizon. While Schutt sucks the romance right out of any situation, and even in her flash fiction holds us somewhere longer than is comfortable, she makes us wonder if there is exactly where we should be. Unnerved while taking pleasure in her language, lost among her characters in the never-ending desert, we wince from pain and sometimes from beauty also.