Spiotta's bitingly clever debut novel sports a rare book-jacket blurb from Don DeLillo, fitting since Spiotta mines the same postmodernist territory DeLillo put on the literary map, examining the detritus and dyspepsia of consumer culture. Mina, daughter of a once-respected movie director now dodging creditors from his retreat in a yurt in Ojai, Calif., has grown up steeped in Hollywood lore. Married to a screenwriter and conducting affairs with two unsuitable men, she finds herself taking clandestine shopping trips—stocking up on shoes, scandalously expensive cashmere stockings and Ultra-Red lipstick—and doing "the unthinkable, the violate," walking around the drivers' city of Los Angeles. Mina's compulsively elegant boss, Lorene, who runs a chain of high-concept theme restaurants (like a '40s serviceman's club "as imagined in fifties movies about wartime serviceman's clubs") staves off her own encroaching desperation with Tactile Hue Therapy, part of a guru-prescribed regimen of "Spiritual Exfoliation and Detoxification." She is a former "life-stylist," having made her fortune by teaching rich men how to be interesting. Mina and Lorene, adrift in anomie despite their expensive distractions, plan to escape L.A. on a cross-country road trip to find and "rescue" Michael, Mina's disturbed brother and Lorene's former lover, who has recently checked out of a mental hospital. Lorene and Mina never manage to meet up with Michael, appropriately enough in a novel documenting missed signals and crossed paths; Spiotta's characters are so hypertuned to cultural references that they fail to read each other. A striking, original and very funny debut. (Aug.)
Forecast:Strong reviews, and plenty of them, will be required to pique readers' interest in this offbeat tale. The DeLillo blurb is key, and the cool-toned, sophisticated jacket art perfectly suggests the hypermodern goings-on within.
Release date: 07/01/2001