Miss Wyoming

Douglas Coupland, Author Pantheon Books $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-375-40734-5
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.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999
Release date: 12/01/1999
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