Spontaneous

Diana Wagman, Author L.A. Weekly Books $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-26234-1
The villain of screenwriter Wagman's wonderfully outrageous second novel is a sexually voracious dwarf who also happens to be the world authority on spontaneous human combustion. That's just a taste of the nonstop, fiery oddity with which Wagman (Skin Deep) aims to shock and entertain--and mostly she hits her mark. The narrative starts with a blast as an old woman named Auntie Ned bursts into flames. Her L.A. house (charred and smelly, with a freezer full of mysterious meat) is left to two beautiful, passionate sisters named Amy and Gwendolyn, whose mother was Ned's best friend. Amy, the older sibling, is by turns maternal and destructive; Gwendolyn is fiercely possessive and passive-aggressive. Their yin-yang interdependence turns perilous after Amy meets Roosevelt, the dim but kindly handyman who's putting their new house in order. Roosevelt is smitten with Amy instantly, but she wants to groom him for future marriage to Gwendolyn. Soon enough, she's training him in tantric sex techniques (no orgasm allowed); he's also burdened with a new pet lizard, and she's involved with the sinister, professorial dwarf. Roosevelt's indoctrination nearly drives him mad with frustration and desire. Meanwhile, the emotional and erotic tension between the two sisters rises to its boiling point. Wagman's satisfying denouement is at once in the tradition of ""sisterhood"" novels and a bawdy, bloody-minded sendup of them all: her fast-paced, bizarre and entertaining volume reads like a Mary Gaitskill story adapted for the screen by David Lynch. Fans of either or both of those creators will find this story explosively satisfying. (Oct.) FYI: L.A. Weekly Books is a new imprint from St. Martin's and represents ""a publishing alliance"" between the press and the editors at L.A. Weekly.
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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Paperback - 261 pages - 978-0-312-28349-0
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