BN.com Gift Guide

Ten Days in the Hills

( 15 )

Overview

In the aftermath of the 2003 Academy Awards, Max and Elena- he's an Oscar-winning writer/director-open their Holywood Hills home to a group of friends and neighbors, industy insiders and hangers-on, eager to escape the outside world and dissect the latest news, gossip, and secrets of the business. Over the next ten days, old lovers collide, new relationships form, and sparks fly, all with Smiley's signature sparkling wit and characterization.

With its breathtaking passion and ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (119) from $1.99   
  • New (11) from $2.95   
  • Used (108) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 2
Showing 1 – 10 of 11 (2 pages)
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$2.95
Seller since 2005

Feedback rating:

(157)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
2007 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Excellent New Hard Cover. Book is from Bookstore Inventory: Book might have a Remainder mark, Minor Edge wear or Hint of Page edge ... soiling. Book has been Displayed: NOTE: PSC-3(Has some Color change to Page edges) Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 464 p. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Evans, GA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$3.01
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(19)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 1400040612 New Hardback Book. Unread and unmarked with slightest of shelf wear to corner tips. No crease to spine. We ship daily. International Shipments are ... Welcome. We Ship Daily. Shipping Mailers Made of 90% Recycled Materials. International Shipments are Welcome. Your satisfaction is guaranteed! I encourage you to buy this Hardback as 40% OF THE PROCEEDS GO TO LOCAL CHARTIBLE FOUNDATIONS. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Idyllwild, CA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$3.75
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(76)

Condition: New
1400040612 Only 1 copy left! Clean, unmarked copy. Hardcover, with dust jacket- In great shape! I can send expedited rate if you chose; otherwise it will promptly be sent via ... media rate. Got any questions? Email me; I'm happy to help! Read more Show Less

Ships from: Los Angeles, CA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.95
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(393)

Condition: New
2007-02-13 Hardcover New New book with light shelf wear.

Ships from: Amherst, NY

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$5.50
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(90)

Condition: New
100% satisfaction guaranteed. Perfect Condition. Ship twice daily.

Ships from: Plano, TX

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$8.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(0)

Condition: New
New York, NY 2007 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Tight binding with clean text. New. First edition. Has red remainder dot on page edges. Sewn binding. Cloth ... over boards. 464 p. Audience: General/trade. This glorious new novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner is a big, smart, bawdy tale of love and war, sex and politics, friendship and betrayal--and the allure of the movies. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Arlington, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$9.60
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(0)

Condition: New
2007 Hard cover First edition. New in fine dust jacket. Tight binding with clean text. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 464 p. Audience: General/trade. Photo of cover is ... erroneous. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Arlington, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$11.95
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(9)

Condition: New
2007 Hardcover New This book is new. DJ front and spine faded, light edge/shelfwear. This glorious new novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner is a big, smart, bawdy tale of love ... and war, sex and politics, friendship and betrayal--and the allure of the movies. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Boulder, CO

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$17.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(14)

Condition: New
Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 464 p. Audience: General/trade. Brand New-Gift Quality In a plastic cover

Ships from: San Jose, CA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$20.00
Seller since 2005

Feedback rating:

(46)

Condition: New
New York, NY 2007 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 464 p. Audience: General/trade.

Ships from: San Marino, CA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 2
Showing 1 – 10 of 11 (2 pages)
Close
Sort by
Ten Days in the Hills

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

In the aftermath of the 2003 Academy Awards, Max and Elena- he's an Oscar-winning writer/director-open their Holywood Hills home to a group of friends and neighbors, industy insiders and hangers-on, eager to escape the outside world and dissect the latest news, gossip, and secrets of the business. Over the next ten days, old lovers collide, new relationships form, and sparks fly, all with Smiley's signature sparkling wit and characterization.

With its breathtaking passion and sexy irreverence, Ten Days in the Hills is a glowing addition to the work of one of our most beloved novelists.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Like Boccaccio's Decameron, Jane Smiley's 11th novel consists of ten days of robust, often lascivious storytelling. Of course, there are significant differences: Boccaccio's revelers have escaped the bubonic plague in the Italian countryside; Smiley's Hollywood refugees are camping out in decadent splendor after the Oscars. Somehow, she manages to keep us interested in characters who we don't much like, in the process creating yet another stimulating satire that stays with us.
Chris Bohjalian
There may be scenes here that should have wound up on the cutting room floor, but what tale from Tinseltown can't use a little editing? By the time the final credits were rolling, I was more enamored of Smiley's players than I was annoyed, and when the lights came up -- excuse me, when I closed the book -- I was grateful for the time I had spent with them in their sheltered and sumptuous little world.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A diverse group of attractive folks take refuge from tragedy in a hillside villa, where much merriment, bawdiness, and storytelling ensue. Boccaccio's Decameron? Yes, at least as transplanted to 21st-century America in this sly and sexy comic novel. The hills of the title are in Hollywood, the tragedy is the Iraq war, and the characters, all connected in some way with the film industry, exemplify the privileged classes of our times. The ill-assorted circle that descends unexpectedly on Max, an aging director, and Elena, his significant other, include Max's grown-up environmentalist daughter, Isabel; Stoney, Max's agent (and Isabel's secret romantic interest); Elena's son, Simon, who is currently skipping college classes to work in a student porn flick; Max's gorgeous movie star ex-wife and her New Age lover; and Charlie, a childhood friend of Max fleeing suburban life. During an eventful week and a half, the group's political tensions, family arguments, anecdotes, gossip, and lovemaking make up a satirical frolic reminiscent of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's Moo, though here with more emphasis on Eros than academe. Recommended for most fiction collections.
—Starr E. Smith
Kirkus Reviews
Smiley, who won a Pulitzer for transplanting King Lear to 1970s Iowa (A Thousand Acres, 1991), sets her modern-day version of The Decameron in Hollywood. And it's no prize-winner. Her characters are not drawn together by a disaster as directly threatening as the Black Death, though the recently launched invasion of Iraq inspires nearly as much dread in one of them. Self-help author Elena can't help brooding about the war, even as she lies in bed kissing her lover, slightly-past-his-prime film director Max. It's March 24, 2003, the morning after the Oscars, and Max's house is filled with guests: insecure Stoney, who inherited the job of Max's agent from his more dynamic father; belligerently patriotic Charlie, Max's childhood friend; Delphine, who's still living in Max's guest house years after his divorce from her daughter, gorgeous movie star Zoe; Delphine's best friend Cassie; Max and Zoe's daughter Isabel; and Elena's feckless son Simon. In wander Zoe and her new lover Paul, a New Age-y healer, and the stage is set for ten days of storytelling a la Boccaccio. Unsurprisingly, many of the tales involve movies and moviemaking, though Smiley nods to her source material a few times (e.g., a notorious sinner declared a saint after a mendacious deathbed confession). If only her narrative were as lively as the bawdy Decameron: There's plenty of sex, but most of it is clinical rather than erotic, and the erectile difficulties of middle-aged men don't make for very arousing reading either. The parade of stories has no evident thematic unity, and the characters are frequently irritating. Even those who agree with Elena's feelings about Iraq may grow tired of her harping on the subject, andIsabel's perennially aggrieved stance toward her mother hardly seems justified by Zoe's mildly diva-esque behavior. A change of venue to a lavish mansion owned by a mysterious Russian who wants Max to direct a remake of Taras Bulba helps not at all. A couple of touching moments toward the end can't redeem this surprising misstep from one of our most gifted novelists. First printing of 150,000
From the Publisher
“A blazing farce, a fiery satire of contemporary celebrity culture and a rich, simmering meditation on the price of war and fame and desire.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review“A raunchy survey of the human condition. . . . A modern-day Decameron.” —John Updike, The New Yorker“Luxurious. . . . The extremely talented and ever-surprising Jane Smiley . . . deftly transposes the central themes and rich atmosphere of a literary classic to contemporary America.” —Entertainment Weekly“Sprawling, languid, randy . . . Ten Days in the Hills is a novel, and a shimmering one at that, of social observations, archly written and mordantly funny.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400040612
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/13/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.55 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Smiley
Jane Smiley is the author of eleven novels, as well as four works of nonfiction. She is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. Smiley lives in Northern California.

Biography

Jane smiley is the author of many novels, including A Thousand Acres, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Horse Heaven. She lives in Northern California. In 2001, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Northern California
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 26, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Vassar College, 1971; M.A., Iowa University, 1975; M.F.A, 1976; Ph.D., 1978

Read an Excerpt

Ten Days in the Hills


By Jane Smiley

Knopf

Copyright © 2007 Jane Smiley
All right reserved.



DAY ONE
Monday, March 24, 2003


Max was still sleeping, neatly, as always, his head framed by the sunny white of his rectangular pillow, his eyelids smooth over the orbs of his eyes, his lips pale and soft, his bare shoulders square on the bed. While Elena was gazing at him, he sighed. Sometime in the night, he had turned back the white comforter; its fold crossed him diagonally between the hip and the knee. The morning sunlight burnished his hands (right on top of left), and sparkled through his silvery chest hair. His cock lay to one side, nonchalant. Elena smoothed the very tips of his chest hair with her hand so that she could just feel it tickling her palm, and then circled his testicles with her index finger. She was sleepy herself, probably from dreaming of the Oscars. What she could remember were more like recurring images of the bright stage as she had seen it from their seats, smiling figures walking around on it, turning this way and that, breasting the audience suddenly as if jumping into surf--not unhappy images, but not restful. The bright figures had stayed with her all night, sometimes actually looking frightened, or turning toward her so that she had to remind herself in her dream that they were happy, well fed, successful.

She sat up quietly, so as not to disturb him. She saw that all of their clothes--his tux and her vintage gold silk-velvet flapper dress--were draped neatly over the backs of acouple of chairs. Her silver sandals and her silver mesh evening bag lay on the windowsill where she had set them when she walked in the bedroom door. He had taken her to the Oscars and then to the Governor's Ball, because she, of course, had never been, though he himself had an invitation every year--his movie Grace had won Best Screenplay in the 1970s (and in fact was listed on three "hundred best films of the twentieth century" lists that she had looked up on the Internet: seventy-seventh on one, eighty-third on another, and eighty-fifth best on the third). At fifty-eight, Max had a certain sort of fame in Hollywood: most people had heard of him, but lots of younger ones assumed he was dead.

Elena, who wrote self-improvement guides (she was currently working on Here's How: To Do EVERYTHING Correctly!, chapter four, "Eating and Drinking"), had also managed to earn herself a house, but it was a bungalow in the flats of Beverly Hills, not a mansion that cascaded down a mountainside in Pacific Palisades, looked across Will Rogers Memorial Park at the Getty Museum, and had five bedrooms, a guesthouse, and a swimming pool down the mountainside (three flights of stairs) that caught the morning sun. There were two gardens on other levels--the herb garden and flower garden, one level down from the kitchen, and the Japanese garden, twenty feet below the swimming pool, which was utterly cool and silent, as far away from Los Angeles as the island of Honshu.

Elena put her feet on the floor and thought of the war. The war had begun on Thursday. As soon as she thought directly of the war, which had been until this moment of her day a presence but not an object, her fragmented, Oscar-colored mood jelled into a general feeling of shame and fear. The fact was, the war was going forward no matter what, no matter how threatening and dangerous it was, no matter how many people were certain to die, no matter how many people protested and complained, no matter what a bad bet it looked like. Other people could understand the war and explain it--there was, indeed, something reasonable about the war that other people seemed able to comprehend--but for Elena the war was entirely counterintuitive. She supposed it came down to that very word--"war," a word she had avoided reading, saying, looking at for a number of years when she was a child during the Cold W--, when "war" meant annihilation, mutually assured destruction, better dead than red, except that as a child she had understood "dead" much better than "red"--she had understood "dead" perfectly. Elena remembered herself at eight, standing in the kitchen with the radio on and her fingers in her ears, blocking out the sound of the television in the living room that was reporting the random progress of various threats to her life. One name she remembered was "Francis Gary Powers," a man who endangered everyone by spying. After more than forty years, Elena could still remember that name and see his snowy black-and-white figure, a tall man with dark hair, being hustled from one room to another by other, more shadowy figures. She remembered him because she had known that there was a train of circumstances that could begin with Francis Gary Powers and end with her death. Even then, even at eight years old, Elena had understood that tipping over into mutually assured destruction would have been an accident. This war, though, was not an accident but an intention. People who knew people whom Elena knew planned to visit assured destruction on other people whom Elena didn't know. She sighed so deeply that Max turned toward her and opened his eyes. He said, "Did you have fun last night?"

"Yes, but I dreamt about the stage all night. What I liked best was that so many people were happy to see you."

"The troll emerges from under the bridge." He pulled up the coverlet. "It's always a pleasant surprise."

"It looked to me like they were genuinely happy to see you. Actual smiles that included their eyes. Involuntary twinkles and sparkles and body twitches."

"They're actors. Nothing is involuntary."

"Well, thank you anyway for taking me."

"The best part was them wondering who you were and where you got that dress." Now he rolled her into his embrace, right up next to his shoulders and chest. He kissed her between the eyebrows and pulled the quilt over her. "The worst part is that I think we have a house party shaping up."

"Isn't your friend Charlie Mannheim coming soon?" She had met Charlie the previous summer with Max on a trip to San Francisco. She had observed then that with men you often didn't quite understand why two people who became friends when they were ten years old remained in contact almost into their sixties.

"That, plus Stoney has to vacate his place while the floors are being redone. And Isabel wants to visit all of a sudden. I guess she broke up with Leo and he won't leave their apartment."

Stoney Whipple was Max's agent, a position he had taken over from his father, Jerry. Elena hadn't known Jerry. She'd met Max in the cheese section at Gelson's last Easter, when Max was buying a Piave and Elena was buying a Gruyère de Comté and their hands touched as they both reached for the Epoisses. Jerry had died by that time. She had come to understand that Jerry Whipple was, by all accounts, a legend. Stoney Whipple was sweet, Elena thought. He was in and out of Max's house in a way that reminded her of her Midwestern roots, and so she felt friendly with him for that and also because his career didn't seem to be shaping up into a legendary one.

But Isabel! Isabel was Max's daughter, whom Elena had not met. She said, calmly, she thought, "That's three. That isn't so bad. It isn't bad at all."

"Stoney can sleep in the study. He's going to be in and out."

Without wishing to, she felt a surge of nervousness. The spacious peace of this luxuriously sprawling house to be broken! Although Elena loved to contemplate pork roasts and thread-counts and bottles of spring water on bedside tables, having to provide them made her anxious. She said, "At least we got rid of Simon." Simon was Elena's own son, a senior at UC Davis, who, Elena thought, was spending too much time in L.A. and too little time in Davis. He had left only a week ago, after twelve lazy days of vacation during which he did not look for post-graduation employment.

Max said, "What do you want to do today?"

"Hide out from the war."

"Oh, that." He frowned and flopped over on his back. Max's feelings about the war, she knew, were compounded less of shame than of anger. When Elena said that the war was stupid and then Max replied that, yes, it was stupid, she then went on to point out that those prosecuting the war didn't comprehend the chaotic and agonizing nature of war, and he went on to exclaim, "What's the plan? It's evident they have no plan!" As a movie director, he had directed Bull Run in the late 1980s, an epic Civil War movie that ran three hours and five minutes, had taken eight months to make, employed hundreds of extras and horses, and had, perhaps, killed the studio that made it. When he talked about planning, she was sure he was thinking about projects he had planned and executed over the years. And he was thinking of the army, since he had been in Vietnam.

She lifted the quilt, then let it drop. She said, "The war is too much for your cock."

"I admit that."

"Say, did you notice that when I spoke to Michael Moore after the ceremony, about his speech, he seemed a little shocked by the booing? You don't expect Michael Moore to be shocked by anything. I was disappointed. I mean, if Michael Moore is intimidated by a little booing, what's going to happen to the rest of us?"

"But who was booing him? Studio executives. You don't want to be booed by studio executives, even if you are filled with contempt for them. Anyway, I bet by this time you're the only person in the world who knows he was shocked. I bet even he doesn't know he was shocked anymore. And who's to say that they were booing his remarks about Bush? Maybe they were booing his remark about having Canadian financing."

Elena smiled, then Max smiled. He said, "I want Canadian financing, too."

"What for?"

"A movie I am going to make about you."

"Oh, yes, about posture. I'm going to be sitting in my chair with both feet flat on the floor and my spine perfectly aligned, and then I'm going to rise from my chair and walk across the room without turning my toes out, pronating my ankles, or, God forbid, turning my toes in. We'll put small white circles all up my spine and across my shoulders and down the backs of my legs, so that my physiologically correct and evolutionarily correct posture will be evident to anyone."

"No."

"Then maybe I'm going to get stains out of some delicate items? Not just red-wine stains and bloodstains, but rust stains and grass stains and oils of various kinds? Using lemons and other citrus fruits?"

"No. You are not going to be useful in my film about you." He was propped up on his left elbow now, looking down at her. His right hand slipped behind her back and turned her toward him. She let her head loll backward, lengthening and exposing her neck, and he kissed her along her jawline. When she turned her head toward him, he kissed her on the lips. He had a certain way of kissing that Elena liked very much, not active but quiet, springy, and full of suction. During the kiss, she contemplated their connection--tight, warm, and comfortable. Everything promised was delivered, adjustments were made in which he claimed more and more of her lips, and then, in a moment of common agreement that she suspected was visceral or even biological, they broke apart, in order to kiss again. Each long kiss built on the previous one as more and more nerve endings came into play. Each kiss was a surprise to her lips. Her brain remembered that they had kissed and that the kisses were always seductive and good, but her lips were won over anew every time. Each kiss, also, she felt as a material and particular assertion of his masculinity--steady, strong, orderly, desirous, and, above all, intentional, as if kissing her were something that he paid attention to each time. Elena, of course, had been kissed thousands of times over the years--she was fifty, after all--and she had been married once, and of course there had been high school and college and graduate school, and if marriage was like a thousand-dollar bill, rare but tangible and possessable, and going steady was like a hundred-dollar bill--more common than you thought when you didn't have one--then kisses were like pennies, easily disregarded, hard to remember, or even inconvenient and annoying. And yet she could say with perfect honesty (and she was far too meticulous to allow any other kind of honesty) that Max's kisses were always to be noticed, valued, and cherished, since they could not be preserved, which was, by the way, too bad.

Continues...

Excerpted from Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley Copyright © 2007 by Jane Smiley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. The story opens just after the Iraq war has begun and Elena is thinking about the war, as she will throughout the novel. “Though no theory worked, she couldn't help toiling at her theorizing. …Each new theory was accompanied by a momentary sense of uplift—oh, that was it—fear, native aggression, ignorance, disinformation and propaganda, a religious temperament of rules and punishments. But in the end, it was that they didn't mind killing; they didn't think killing had anything to do with them or their loved ones” [p. 22]. Why is Elena the character most affected by the outbreak of war? Are you sympathetic to her thinking? Is she the most morally engaged character in the novel, or is she, as Charlie thinks, over-reacting?

2. Consider the book's structure: 10 characters spend 10 days together in two different houses. What happens? What develops? What is resolved, if anything? What is the effect of Smiley's taking Boccaccio's fourteenth-century premise (10 characters take refuge from the plague for ten days of pleasure and storytelling) and transposing it to 2003? [See Smiley's description of The Decameron below]

3. A recurring comic allusion to what Elena calls “the manliness problem” is found at the beginning of the book with regard to Max, to Saddam Hussein, and to actors such as Hugh Grant and Ed Harris [p. 19]. Elena worries that, since “the Big Classic” is malfunctioning, she has unmanned Max with her fears about the war. What is “the manliness problem” and does it in fact relate to the war?

4. Consider the ways in which the three main couples—Max and Elena, Stoney and Isabel, Paul and Zoe—are sexually attuned to each other. What does Smiley seem to suggest about their relationships, given the ways they make love with each other? Does the sexual bond between Isabel and Stoney suggest that they should be together, despite the difference in their ages?

5. What does the juxtaposition of war with sex, food, storytelling and movie-watching signify?

6. Smiley describes the marriage of Zoe and Max as follows: “To Max (Elena was sure), Zoe felt like the main event of his life, but to Zoe (for some reason) Max felt like the opening act. Elena understood that this was a common pattern in Hollywood, where the calibrations of success, especially for 'talent,' were highly refined, and every marriage was simultaneously an assertion of who and how important you thought you were at a particular moment in your career and a sign of how you were to be treated by others” [p. 41]. Does the fact that Elena is not in the movie business mean that her love for Max (and his for her) is not bound to this hierarchy of social status?

7. Is Hollywood meant to be a microcosm of America, or is it seen to have a bizarre culture all its own? Why might Smiley have chosen to set her reprise of The Decameron in Hollywood? What is the relation between movies and storytelling, since both are so fundamental to the conversations and activities that we see throughout the novel?

8. In a discussion about a newspaper article on civilian deaths, Charlie stares aghast at Elena when she says, “The U.S. is a pariah in world opinion today” [p. 210]. Given the time that has elapsed since the beginning of the Iraq war and the publication of this novel, how do Elena's fears and opinions come across? What might the book be like if the same ten people got together now, nearly five years into the war?

9. John Updike, writing in The New Yorker, observed that the novel's “sexual descriptions set a new mark for explicitness in a work of non-pornographic intent. Smiley works in close focus, and from a male as well as a female point of view” (The New Yorker 1/29/07). Discuss what is unique or remarkable about Smiley's descriptions of sex. What is she expressing about the emotional and physiological effects of touch and physical response, and what is particularly impressive about the descriptive prose in which she does so?

10. Sexual infidelity finds its place in the story when Zoe sleeps with Simon [p. 245]. Why does Simon punch Paul? Why does Zoe react as she does, and why do these events lead to her breakup with Paul?

11. Why is Paul an interesting character? Is he a charlatan? Is he wise? What do you think of his spiritual perspective, particularly in juxtaposition to the other characters and with the background of Hollywood?

12. Elena is a writer of self-help books like Here's How: To Do EVERYTHING Correctly! She worries that she suffers from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and that because of her preoccupations she lacks a sense of humor. Does Elena come across as a likeable person? Why or why not?

13. On the seventh day the group moves to the Bel Air mansion of the Russian millionaire Mike. How does the change in setting affect the characters? Why might Smiley have chosen to move her characters to such a house?

14. Regarding Elena's love for Max, we're told, “what created this love was a suddenly vast sense of every story he had told her…" [p. 424]. Does this mean that Max has in a sense created himself, for Elena, out of stories? Or that she loves him for his past, his perceptions, and his sensibility? What does this statement tell us about the importance of the stories people tell each other?

15. In what ways is the novel funny? In what ways is it satirical? Consider the scene in which Cassie and Delphine plan to go food shopping and they survey the dietary needs and preferences of the group [p. 86]. Is the scene meant to stand, comically, in contrast to some other cultural or social reality?

16. Max's movie Grace won an Oscar in the 1970s but his career hasn't moved forward much since then. He does not seem troubled by this and doesn't want to take Stoney's advice about Taras Bulba. He would prefer to make My Lovemaking with Elena. Does it seem likely that either of these movies will see the light?

17. Consider what it would be like to make a list of the many movies mentioned or watched by the characters in the story, and to actually watch all of these films. How would it change your perspective on reality? On Hollywood? On the different ways that film and fiction tell stories?

18. The novel ends as Zoe receives the package containing the painting, which is not by Vermeer but instead by a woman artist named Judith Leyster, “the only woman artist of her day” [p. 449]. She is humming the song “So in Love,” and thinking about the girl in the painting. What is the effect of this ending?

On The Decameron, from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Novel:
“Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron … takes place during the Black Death. … Here were the characters … making up their minds to go out into the countryside, to take a break from the devastation, and to entertain themselves with stories. … They do find repose and they do entertain themselves, and most important for readers, with their tales and their discussion, they reconstitute what it means to be human and civilized even while civilization is disintegrating around them. And they do it with good humor rather than grief. Many of the stories are jokes; many of them are intended to evoke laughter and pleasure. … I thought it was a reminder of human resilience—not merely that humans survive, but that as they survive, they can't help re-creating complex culture, which includes aesthetic, moral, political, sexual, and sensual ideas” [pp. 273-74].

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Entertaining

    In California, self-help author Elena lives with film director Max but fails to overcome her gloom even during the act. On the morning after the 2003 Oscar Awards and just a few days after the Iraq war started, Max has many guests staying at his home. His agent Stoney fears he is not able to match the greatness of his dynamic deceased father. Max¿s childhood friend Charlie wraps himself in the flag while antagonistically challenging anyone to oppose the Iraq War. His former mother-in-law Delphine lives in Max's guest house though he divorced her daughter movie star Zoe years ago when he was still prime time not a washed up after thought. Others also staying are Delphine's best friend Cassie, Max and Zoe's daughter Isabel, Elena's son Simon, Zoe and her lover Paul. These people begin telling tales of films over the course of ten days, but soon turn to debating the war in Iraq.--------------- Moving Giovanni Boccaccio¿s Decameron from the hills of Italy to the hills of Southern California, Jane Smiley provides a fascinating ten days of tales, debauchery, and debate (on the second Iraq War that had just begun). The stories within the story are fun to follow more so as they are individual items rather than a collective, but they also lack the intensity of the Decameron whose contrast is established early on when the narrator compares the sickness of love to that of the Black Death. Fans of Ms. Smiley will appreciate her wit as she modernizes the fourteenth century masterpiece though Hollywood is no Florence or even A Thousand Acres in Iowa.------------ Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2007

    Not engaging, interesting, or educational

    Our book club picked this because we were looking for a light summer read and the reviews said, 'sexy, saucy tales from Hollywood'. I couldn't get past page 120 as it was so boring and uninteresting. Save your reading time for something else.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2007

    Dull Reading

    I always finish what I start reading but after reading 50 pages I put this book down. I just couldn't continue as there was no substance. The book did alot of star and movie name dropping. But with that the content did not have a good story line. I can read about any topic but this was a no go.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2008

    Extremely Dissapointed

    As a huge fan of Jane Smiley, who finds her books excellent, intelligent reads, I was horridly dissapointed with this novel. Like other reviewers, I pushed myself thru this book as I too commit to finishing any book I start, but I must admit, it was a struggle. I am still trying to figure out what was the point? Rated R -- not for ravishing but rotten

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2007

    3 Words...

    3 words: well written porn. Nothing happens. The characters lay around the house, name drop, and retreat to their respective bedrooms. I kept reading thinking 'something HAS to happen soon,' but alas I was disappointed. Around day 5 of 10 they finally get out of the house and GO SOMEWHERE. But guess what they do at their new setting... lay around, name drop, and fornicate. Where's Waldo has a better plot line than this smut. (I will give credit to the author though, that it is well written smut. Danielle Steel, take note.)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    Is there a second book coming out were it gets to the real story and something happens, I kept reading and reading waiting for something to happen and was very disappointed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2007

    Not Worth My Time

    I have rarely not finished a book once I've started it. Even if I'm not enjoying it, I always feel that there must be redeeming quality coming up. That's not the case with this book. I read about 150 pages because I have enjoyed Smiley's other books, but this one misses the mark by a long shot. If this were a film, most of it would have ended up on the cutting room floor!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2007

    Beware reviews!

    This book received a detailed review in The New Yorker. It sounded great! I really had to force myself to wade through this tedious novel. Definitely would not recommend paying hard-cover price for this book--and perhaps would suggest skipping it in paperback as well. Wish I'd waited to read the B&N reviews before ordering.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2007

    Ten Days In Hell

    I've enjoyed Jane Smiley's previous books (Moo, for example), but this was absolutely dreadful. I kept waiting for something to happen, but this really was like spending 10 days in hell. I just couldn't finish it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2007

    Not her best

    Love Jane Smiley, loved 'Moo' and 'A Thousand Acres.' This is good, but not her best. Re-read 'A Thousand Acres' instead.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2007

    Characters I cared nothing about

    This is the first time I've read Jane Smiley. After the first 20 pages, I was bored. I decided to persevere, because I¿ve always heard good things about the author. At page 100, I gave up (only 335 left to go). I really didn¿t care about the characters populating this novel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)