The eponymous heroine of Miss Wyoming
is one Susan Colgate, a teen beauty queen and low-rent soap actress. Dragooned into show business by her demonically pushy, hillbilly mother, Susan has hit rock bottom by the time Douglas Coupland's seventh book begins. But when she finds herself the sole survivor of an airplane crash, this "low-grade onboard celebrity" takes the opportunity to start all over again:
She felt like a ghost. She tried to find her bodily remains there in the wreckage and was unable to do so.... Then she was lost in a crowd of local onlookers and trucks, parping sirens and ambulances. She picked her way out of the melee and found a newly paved suburban road that she followed away from the wreck into the folds of a housing development. She had survived, and now she needed sanctuary and silence.
She's not, of course, the only Hollywood burnout who'd like to vanish into thin air. Her opposite number, a producer of big-budget, no-brainer action flicks named John Johnson, stages a similar disappearing act. After a near-death experience, in the course of which he is treated to a vision of Susan's face, he roams the western badlands. And even after his return to L.A., Johnson is determined to unravel the mystery of this woman's fate.
Throughout, Coupland displays his usual gift for capturing the absurdities of modern existence. The distinctive minutiae of our age--junk mail and fast food, sitcoms and Singapore slings, and the "shop fronts bigger and brighter and more powerful than they needed to be"--come to vivid, funny life in this author's hands. And while Susan and John occupy center stage, Coupland is just as generous with his peripheral characters. A scriptwriter and his supernaturally intelligent girlfriend, a recluse who spends his evening generating Internet rumours--all manage to be blessed and cursed, numbed by their pointless existences but full of humanity when put to the test. Picture Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut collaborating on a Tinseltown version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and you come halfway to grasping Coupland's brand of thoughtful, supremely funny storytelling. --Matthew Baylis
From Publishers Weekly
Since Generation X, Coupland has been read more for his trend-setting insights than his novelistic dexterity. In his sixth novel, however, he loses even that edge by jumping on the already tired beauty-pageant-bashing bandwagon. Susan Colgate's mother, Marilyn, is a viciously competitive stage mom who micromanages Susan into teen stardom as Miss Wyoming. But Susan revolts against maternal pressure by dramatically refusing the Miss USA Teen crown, and independently makes her way to Hollywood, where she enjoys her 15 minutes of fame on an '80s sitcom, Meet the Blooms. Her career sliding downhill after that, she goes to New York for an audition; on the way back to L.A., the plane crashes. Thrown clear of the wreckage, Susan survives unscathed, but she allows the world to think that she is dead. Later, she claims she had amnesia, but in reality, she shacked up with a former beauty pageant judge and had a baby. Now 28, Susan has kept the child secret, but her mother eventually intuits its existence. Susan feels she is washed up at 28, until she meets John Johnson, once a powerful hit-making Hollywood producer, who gave away all his possessions and literally walked away from Hollywood, living like a tramp for six months. Now John is baby-stepping back into the real world, supported by his business partner, Ivan. Meeting Susan, he recognizes her as the face he saw in a fever hallucination just before his walkabout. But on the eve of their second date, Susan disappears, so he, another Colgate fan and the fan's unbelievably smart girlfriend search for Susan and her secret child. Coupland's writing is frustratingly uneven, sometimes deftly jokey, other times hopelessly muddled ("her body was mechanically deboned with relief") and his characters, for all their spiritual crises, are about as introspective as cell phones. The plot twists satisfyingly in several places, but in general, Coupland should leave the star-crossed celeb genre to Judith Krantz. 60,000 first printing; 8-city author tour. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.