cover image Pure Hollywood

Pure Hollywood

Christine Schutt. Grove, $23 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2761-7

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. In the title novella, an alcoholic, recently widowed actress leaves her sprawling estate to face violence and oblivion in the desert. “The Hedges” and “A Happy Rural Seat of Various View: Lucinda’s Garden” both feature self-absorbed young couples carelessly risking horrific tragedy. Troubled adults sit in gardens, resigned to their fates, in both “Species of Special Concern” and “The Duchess of Albany.” In each of the collection’s 11 stories, Schutt gives readers dissipated women staggering to the brink of sanity, desperate men with foggy intentions, and an eerie atmosphere that radiates menace, sexuality, and murder. But Schutt’s prose is the main attraction: an aged father is “masseused and smooth as a skinned almond,” the pleasures of gardening are described in terms of routine (“they watered the deep beds; they flourished arcs; they beaded hooded plants and frangible rues”), and an ominous stranger is said to have a “seer voice, the old, pocked, vacant voice, prophesying horrors they could not imagine.” Schutt is always in control in this work by an experimental American writer of unparalleled style. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary. (Mar.)