cover image I'm Losing You

I'm Losing You

Bruce Wagner. Villard Books, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41927-3

More soap opera than satire, screenwriter Wagner's wildly uneven second novel (after Force Majeure) presents a wide spectrum of loosely connected characters and situations. Set in contemporary Hollywood, the novel's ensemble cast ranges from budding movie stars and high-powered agents to ambitious masseuses and a New Age homeless woman, with such real-life celebrities as Alec Baldwin and Richard Dreyfuss making cameo appearances. Disparate tales are partially connected through several Hollywood dynasties that interact throughout the novel as Wagner performs a ruthless and occasionally quite sharp dissection of Hollywood's caste system. He is at his best when delineating the hierarchy and competitive paranoia of Tinseltown, and there are occasional moments of pathos in his presentation of the psychic toll of ambition. But many of Wagner's characters are stock types who never rise above cliche, and much of his humor is correspondingly obvious: it takes more than contempt for one's characters to make an effective satirist. He also takes the low art of name-dropping to new depths, with such obsessive cataloging of celebrities and pop-culture icons that the book begins to read more like a fan magazine than a novel. Likewise the vast cast and lack of central incident, reminiscent of Robert Altman's film Short Cuts, which are unredeemed by any overarching vision. (July)