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Gus Van Sant, Author
Gus Van Sant, Author Nan A. Talese $21.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-48828-0
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-385-49353-6
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On the bottom left corner of every even-numbered page of this hip, self-indulgent novel is a crude line drawing, each slightly different from the one that precedes it. Riffled together, the drawings make a flip-book--not the only evidence that first-time novelist Van Sant (director of Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and other films) misses the screen. Narrator Spunky Davis, a successful ""informmercial"" director, spends much of the novel mourning the fatal overdose of one of his stars, Felix Arroyo (who bears more than a passing resemblance to River Phoenix), while suicidal rock star Blake (read Kurt Cobain) isolates himself from his rock star wife and their new triplets and devotes himself to collecting heavy farm equipment. Meanwhile, two of Spunky's young filmmaker friends turn out to be aliens, or ""Nemos."" None of this is especially easy to untangle, even with the help of Van Sant's illustrations (Bob Dylan-quality knockoffs of Quentin Blake) and wryly omniscient footnotes (""Sue is Felix's old girlfriend. She has long blond hair and wears a beret a lot of the time. She, like Spike, works in a coffee shop, except the one she works in is in San Francisco""). The book's disparate voices and tones never harmonize, however. Van Sant's allegory, by turns elegiac and satirical, of today's movie business (films as infomercials, Hollywood as Las Vegas) is the novelistic equivalent of hand-held camera work--jittery and compelling in short bursts but hard to watch for long. (Oct.) FYI: Van Sant's Good Will Hunting will be released this winter.
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