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Jane Smiley

Ten Days In The Hills

Jane Smiley Ten Days In The Hills
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A glorious new novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner: a big, smart, bawdy tale of love and war, sex and politics, friendship and betrayal—and the allure of the movies. With Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron as her model, Jane Smiley takes us through ten transformative, unforgettable days in the Hollywood hills.

It is the morning after the 2003 Academy Awards. Max—an Oscar-winning writer/director whose fame has waned—and his lover, Elena, luxuriate in bed, still groggy from last night’s red-carpet festivities. They are talking about movies, talking about love, and talking about the war in Iraq, recently begun. But soon their house will be full of guests, and guests like these demand attention. There is Max’s ex-wife, “the legendary Zoe Cunningham,” a dazzling half-Jamaican movie star, with her new lover, the enigmatic healer, Paul (fraudulent? enlightened?). Max’s agent, Stoney, a perhaps too easygoing version of his legendary agent father, can’t stay away, and neither can Zoe and Max’s daughter, Isabel, though she would prefer to maintain her hard-won independence. And of course there is the next-door neighbor, Cassie, who seems to know everyone’s secrets.

As they share their stories of Hollywood past and present, watch films in Max’s opulent screening room, gossip by the swimming pool, and tussle in the many bedrooms, the tension mounts, sparks fly, and Smiley delivers an exquisitely woven, virtuosic work—a Hollywood novel as only she could fashion it, told with bravura, rich with delightful characters, spiced with her signature wit.  It is a joyful, sexy, and wondrously insightful pleasure.

“A tour de force novel that showcases [Smiley’s] vast cinematic lore, reminding us why she has earned a reputation as one of the greatest entertainers in American letters. In Ten Days in the Hills, Smiley cleverly borrows the narrative set-up of Boccaccio’s Decameron to allow her readers to eavesdrop on a 10-day house party among members of Hollywood’s second-string players. . . . [A] marathon of Woody Allen-like conversations . . . and Oscar-worthy dialogue . . . witty enough to keep readers chuckling . . . The thinking person’s Big Chill. . . . Throughout her career Smiley has demonstrated a genius for thrusting readers straight into the heart of her characters’ emotions, and this time it feels as if she’s adjusted the lens and taken us in for an even closer look. Just how does she make us care so deeply for these people? . . . Readers will be amazed.”
–Andrea Hoag, The AARP Magazine

“[Ten Days in the Hills is full of] merriment, movies and mating, and, in tone, is akin to [Smiley’s] lively and humorous Moo. But careful readers might notice, at times, a touch of sadness beneath the mirthful atmosphere. . . . Smiley’s rich prose manages to turn a simple kiss into something wondrously poetic. . . [Her] artistic facility with prose and creating scenes is evident. . . . [The] stories and conversations are as colorful as [the characters’] backgrounds. . . . Through flashbacks and dinner party stories and revelations, Smiley peels back the layers that have been buffering the relationships of all gathered during [the] 10 days [over which the novel takes place]. . . . A sharp-edged comedy of manners.”
–Dorman T. Shindler, The Denver Post

“A talky, bawdy book that says a lot about Hollywood and even more about the humanness of the 21st century American . . . Smiley has taken a step toward rejecting the traditional novel’s story arc and instead moved toward a form that is both old and new. It’s all about the story . . . Ultimately, her message here is one of art and its ability to free the artist. Forget the idiots in Washington: Get naked; make art; tell stories. Could there by any saner advice for the age we dwell in?”
–Joe O’Connell, The Austin Chronicle

Ten Days in the Hills is a novel about intercourse. Talk and sex. All kinds of sex. But mostly talk . . . [The characters] talk a lot about the Iraq war. They also ricochet off a vast number of other topics . . . The topic that animates the group most, though, aside from sex, is movies . . . Sprinkled throughout the 10 days are some wonderful stories. Deft characterizations abound. Lovely apercus proliferate . . . [Turn] the volume off and enjoy this book–which is so concerned with film–as a silent movie. The actions will speak louder than words. Especially actions amorous.”
–Sarah Bird, Chicago Tribune

“A spicy, steamy sexalicious slice of life.”
–Kim Baer, The Free Lance-Star

“[The characters in Ten Days in the Hills are] a talky, highly sexed, often contentious bunch, and Smiley proves herself their skilled ventriloquist. As her characters struggle with what plagues them–how to hold on to fame and love; what to eat–her own sly humor, and humanity, emerge. Smiley avoids taking potshots at her indulged and indulgent cast. She even manages to show us they’re worth caring for.”
–Jean Nathan, Vogue

“[The characters in Ten Days in the Hills] tell stories in order to ward off the decline of western democracy. And do these people know how to talk. They talk like people under siege. Every bit of it seduces the reader. Just as she takes us inside movies, Smiley takes us inside sex. No writer has ever been more eloquent about [it] either. It’s the opposite of pornography, when you get right down to it: not visual, but tactile. At the same time, Ten Days turns out to be one of the most political novels ever written by an American author. You would think that by now Hollywood would be worn out as a subject of satire. Smiley, however, brings something fresh to her brand of parody: characters who feel real.”
–Mary Welp, Louisville Courier-Journal

“The latest from Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, follows the exploits of one small enclave in the hills of Hollywood as they react to the Iraq War over the 10 days following the 2003 Oscars . . . Smiley writes with cinematic verve and is nearly without equal when it comes to crystallizing the vagaries of a woman’s inner narrative–musing, meandering, and weaving as it does, free and insouciant even in the face of the withering male ego. [Her character] Elena’s narrative is shot through with frank talk that results in a fresh, oddly romantic way of approaching sexuality–and there is as much action as there is talk.”
–David Cotner, Village Voice

“Compulsively readable . . . Smiley describes the frequent sexual encounters among the characters in explicit detail and with gusto.”
–Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch

“Dazzling . . . [It] is [Smiley’s] delightfully unpredictable range [as a novelist] that makes her one of our finest contemporary writers . . . Smiley’s sex scenes can be lyrical or matter-of-fact, quietly erotic or bawdy, and she can also bring a wickedly satirical edge to the subject . . . . This is not to say that Smiley’s characters are unable to be surprised by love. Rather, it is a different kind of love that takes people by surprise in Ten Days in the Hills–not passionate carnal desire, but a tender love that promises to be more sustaining.”
–Lauren F. Winner, Books & Culture: A Christian Review

“When social historians look back at 2003 to discover America’s psychological state as 9/11 gave way to the Iraq War, they’ll learn more fro


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