Authors who write about the entertainment industry often extend promises of wit and edginess to attract an audience. Colors Insulting to Nature
, by Salon
columnist Cintra Wilson, delivers these qualities because it enters the fray not with a forgettably likeable protagonist predestined for a happy ending, but with an axe to grind. The object of Wilson's loathing is the "ego-porn" Hollywood that turns out formulaic story lines, making hapless, mediocre talents believe that their dreams of fame can somehow come true.
The central mediocre talent in this book is Liza Normal, who first appears in the story as an adolescent auditioning for a spot in a commercial. Imagine the child version of the Bette Midler character in Beaches and you're about halfway to understanding the tragic gaudiness of Liza's persona--though of course she is a sweet girl underneath it all. The novel follows Liza into adulthood, bringing other vividly drawn characters, including her shut-in brother, Ned, her narcissistic, alcoholic mother, Peppy, and a sadomasochistic dwarf named DelVonn along for the ride. Liza's cringingly funny attempts to win fame as an actress-singer never stop--and neither does Wilson's railing against the logic-corrupting, "ultimately demoralizing" messages from film and television that Liza has ingested from infancy. Will our heroine ever turn her life around and figure out that The Media made her do it? Will Wilson succeed in breaking free of formulas, or end up undercutting her own message with a fairy-tale ending? Readers who are drawn to darker comedies will enjoy finding the answers, and find this novel impossible to put down. --Leah Weathersby
From Publishers Weekly
Playwright and Salon
columnist Wilson made a name for herself four years ago with her essay collection, A Massive Swelling
. In her raucous, hilarious debut novel, she covers similar ground: the ugly side of fame and America's unhealthy obsession with celebrity. The dark Gen-X fairy tale follows the adventures of Liza Normal, a would-be starlet with far more ambition than looks or talent. Saddled with a frightening stage mother, Peppy, Liza—"not a girl ruled by the logic of self-preservation"—endures humiliation after humiliation as she acts in an unintentionally campy family musical, turns punk, dates a drug dealer and a washed-up boy band member, goes to rehab and tries unsuccessfully to make it big in Hollywood. The indefatigable Liza finally triumphs in Las Vegas, creating a stage show based on a character from the softcore slash fiction she's written throughout her travails. Wilson goes out on a limb with her verbal extravagance, and readers may find her post-Eggers postmodern asides to the audience (whom she calls "Young Readerlings") and fancy fonts a bit too-too. But her spirited sendup of celebrity worship is laugh-out-loud funny.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.