[review_head]Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley[/review_head]

[review_sub]Entertainment & the Arts: Friday, February 16, 2007[/review_sub]

By Mark Lindquist
Special to The Seattle Times

Hollywood has bedeviled novelists since its inception. Jane Smiley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, is yet another example. Smiley’s strengths are many, she is smart, insightful, observant, and yet she is lost in la-la land.

One of the problems may be that Hollywood is a place of surfaces, where style is substance and glitter matters. It is not a coincidence that the three best Hollywood novels, Nathanael West’s “The Day of the Locust,” Budd Schulberg’s “What Makes Sammy Run?” and Joan Didion’s “Play It As It Lays,” were all written in sharp, focused prose. “Ten Days in the Hills” is soft and fuzzy.

Early on, Smiley spends about 500 words describing a kiss. This, I suppose, was intended as the literary equivalent of a close-up shot, but any studio executive or script doctor would have told her that it was too soon in the romance for a close-up and, besides, lengthy close-up shots are strictly for indie flicks or porn videos.