Review: Pure Hollywood by Christine Schutt

As a reader, I don’t want to work too hard. I can’t stand obliqueness. I want a writer to tell their story precisely and lucidly. If I can’t easily extrapolate character motivations, their emotions, or what is happening to them, I begin to feel like I’m treading water in a churning sea of esotericism. Which is how I felt about Christine Schutt’s collection of stories, “Pure Hollywood.” As aesthetically pleasing as her writing is —with a laser-like, poetic focus on sound and imagery, Schutt concocts immaculately bejewelled sentences — there is an evasiveness to her writing that renders its powers inert. Rather than feeling fulfilled, this collection hollowed me out.

I realise, of course, this is a reflection of my taste rather than Schutt’s literary powers. The eleven stories on offer in “Pure Hollywood” are thematically linked by their snapshots of familial dysfunction, loss, and grief. They vary in length, some shredded to micro-fiction level. My favourite, or at least the most impactful (and certainly most haunting) is “The Hedges,” about an unhappy couple vacationing with their sick and cranky toddler, in which Schutt masterfully foreshadows an incident that occurs in the climactic paragraph. The titular novella is a standout too, detailing the complicated fallout of the death of a woman’s much older husband, specifically as it relates to her step-children and her brother.

I am keen to read one of Schutt’s novels, if only to determine whether it’s the brevity of the tales in “Pure Hollywood” or her style I found so prohibitive. Perhaps to enjoy these stories one requires a level of intense concentration I’m incapable of. Whatever the reason, few of these stories connected with me on any level at all.

ISBN: 9780802127617
ISBN-10: 0802127614
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 144
Published: 13th March 2018