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America the Beautiful: A Novel Paperback – September 11, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Skeptics, prepare for a surprise: this is an energetic and mostly entertaining debut, a novel only Moon Unit Zappa could have written. The novel concerns one America Throne, the opinionated daughter of famous avant-garde artist Boris Throne: she's funny, she's familiar with self-pity, she's looking for love and she's dealing with "how difficult it is to be hippie royalty AND try to find your own identity in the shadow of a certifiable self-made `genius.' " For those who haven't heard of Zappa's father, Frank, the legendary composer and front man of the Mothers of Invention, it's pointless to attempt to explain him here. But the biographical parallels are obvious enough that it's unclear whether Zappa really wants readers to believe America is a fictional character. The novel reads like an obsessive, bipolar journal of disaster and heartache: America is dumped by her artist boyfriend, Jasper, which launches her on a hell-bent roller-coaster ride of self-loathing and self-discovery. Her aggrandized notion of her own hardships is often patently hilarious: "we drove past a mural of anguished faces and raised fists... Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Gandhi, and that guy with all the grapes. They knew what I was talking about." It's hard not to enjoy America's attitude and observational powers, but the novel is also exasperatingly self-indulgent: song lyrics open every chapter, and too often they're inexcusably facile choices like " `Why?' Annie Lennox" or "Hooray for Hollywood" Author Unknown" (that would be Johnny Mercer, by the way). Although the novel lacks any real perspective on America's repeated falls from grace, her giddy highs and crushing lows make for a refreshingly honest and eye-opening read. Agent, Jimmy Vines. (Sept.)Forecast: This title is sure to catch the eye of its young, female target market few novels, after all, score blurbs from Alanis Morissette and Janeane Garofalo.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Debut novelist Zappa takes as her palette a plot so banal that from someone less sensitive, talented, and funny this could have been a real snore. America Throne, 29, daughter of genius writer and painter Boris and adoring paramour of genius painter Jasper, is abruptly dumped. America's lovelorn travails may resemble those of Helen Fielding's and Melissa Bank's heroines, but she is an original. Her mother, brother, best friend, and therapist convincingly come alive for the reader, as do her memories of her father and his infidelities, semi-pornographic art, absences, and unqualified love for her. And, perhaps most importantly, when she behaves like a fool she knows it. As she says to her therapist, "I hate my life because my boyfriend dumped me and I have no real career and my best friend wants me to stay single forever and my mother drives me nuts and my brother's life is perfect.-I have fantasies of murdering my dog when she makes a certain annoying licking sound." Often hilarious, suffused with pop culture, and ultimately affirming, this is for all collections where quirky new voices are appreciated. [The author is the daughter of the late rock musician Frank Zappa. Ed.] Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll., Bronxville, N.
- Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
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Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2001
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Reviewed in the United States on December 16, 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars entertaining book
Reviewed in Germany on January 26, 2018
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