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From “a major, unnervingly intelligent writer” (Joy Williams)…“rich, funny, learned, and tonally fresh” (Jeffrey Eugenides), comes a novel about aspiration, film, work, and love.

Dana Spiotta’s new novel is about two women, best friends, who grow up in LA in the 80s and become filmmakers. Meadow and Carrie have everything in common—except their views on sex, power, movie-making, and morality. Their lives collide with Jelly, a loner whose most intimate experience is on the phone. Jelly is older, erotic, and mysterious. She cold calls powerful men and seduces them not through sex but through listening. She invites them to reveal themselves, and they do.

Spiotta is “a wonderfully gifted writer with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadnesses of contemporary life, and an unerring ear for how people talk and try to cope today” (The New York Times). Innocents and Others is her greatest novel—wise, artful, and beautiful.

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    Seriously Misleading Cover Copy

    As others have noted, Dana Spiotta's Innocents and Others is torpedoed by its cover copy, which promises a "collision" between the lives of filmmakers Meadow and Carrie and that of Jelly, who is described as "older, erotic, and mysterious," the purveyor of seductive phone - well, not sex exactly, but intimacy. It was, in fact, this very promise of drama tinged with immorality that led me to request an ARC from the publisher. What I got instead was a plodding exposé of each woman's life, which barely intersects with the others, much less revealing the others in a new light. That Spiotta chose to give the starring role in her narrative to shallow, self-obsessed, privileged Meadow - the poorest choice from an already sparsely populated pool - secured Innocents and Others's place among the worst books I have read this year. This is not to say that Spiotta can't write; she can, and does, beautifully on occasion: "A lie of invention, a lie about yourself, should not be called a lie. It needs a different word. It is maybe a fabule, a kind of wish-story, something almost true, a mist of the possible where nothing was yet there. With elements both stolen and invented—which is to say, invented. And it has to feel more dream than lie as you speak it." This theme of self-invention, the mutability of identity, is at the heart of this book, and what a timely theme it is. Too bad that the lies Meadow, Carrie, and Jelly tell about themselves are no more interesting than their realities. I received a free copy of Innocents and Others from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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