Mark Oppenheimer was surprised to find how the scandal impacted those involved, almost 60 years later.
We listen again to our June conversation with Jess Walter — his book “Beautiful Ruins” has been named one of the New York Times notable book of the year.
The book goes back and forth through time, from Italy in the early 1960s to modern day Hollywood and features an array of characters from an Italian innkeeper to a grunge rocker. Actor Richard Burton, whose passionate affair with Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “Cleopatra” caused a world-wide scandal, also makes an appearance .
As Jess Walter told Here & Now’s Robin Young back in June, he didn’t originally plan to write Burton into his novel.
“It was almost as if the way he sweeps into the book is the way he swept into the writing process,” says Walter. And though he wanted to keep Burton in his book longer “he wouldn’t stay for me.”
But having Burton as a character in his book helped Jess Walter explore the question of when the pursuit of celebrity trumps art, one of many themes Walter explores in this critically acclaimed novel.
This segment originally aired on June 13th, 2012.