There's nugget of a novella in the midst of this that is really intriguing - the story that takes place in 1962 on the Italian coast. If this novel were just that story, I'd rate it quite a bit higher.The added characters and their stories are more than just padding, I think. To some extent, it seems an attempt to emulate Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I almost [almost] hated. Like that book, there are a few nasties in Beautiful Ruins who have to have their story told. The bigger problem, though, is that the purpose of all these extras is to model the reactions the author wants the reader to have. Pasquale has a 50-year-old tale to tell that is so poignant that the Hollywood-types listening are gob-smacked. Characters are moved to tears by a play they watch. A character reads a lone first chapter and then weighs in on its glories. All of these things would be directed at you, the reader, instead of other characters if the author were more confident in the power of the work. It's akin to rambling through an anecdote, finishing with "I guess you had to be there", and finding a witness to corroborate how wondrous the event had been. In the 2013 Tournament of Books, Beautiful Ruins should fall to any of the competitors I've read so far.