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, from a newlywed couple who ignore the violent warnings of a painter burned by love to an eerie portrait of erotic obsession, each story is an imagistic snapshot of what it means to live and learn, love and hurt.
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.