AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Moon Unit Zappa, Author . Scribner $14 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7432-1383-7

Skeptics, prepare for a surprise: this is an energetic and mostly entertaining debut, a novel only Moon Unit Zappa could have written. The novel concerns one America Throne, the opinionated daughter of famous avant-garde artist Boris Throne: she's funny, she's familiar with self-pity, she's looking for love and she's dealing with "how difficult it is to be hippie royalty AND try to find your own identity in the shadow of a certifiable self-made 'genius.' " For those who haven't heard of Zappa's father, Frank, the legendary composer and front man of the Mothers of Invention, it's pointless to attempt to explain him here. But the biographical parallels are obvious enough that it's unclear whether Zappa really wants readers to believe America is a fictional character. The novel reads like an obsessive, bipolar journal of disaster and heartache: America is dumped by her artist boyfriend, Jasper, which launches her on a hell-bent roller-coaster ride of self-loathing and self-discovery. Her aggrandized notion of her own hardships is often patently hilarious: "we drove past a mural of anguished faces and raised fists... Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Gandhi, and that guy with all the grapes. They knew what I was talking about." It's hard not to enjoy America's attitude and observational powers, but the novel is also exasperatingly self-indulgent: song lyrics open every chapter, and too often they're inexcusably facile choices like " 'Why?'—Annie Lennox" or "Hooray for Hollywood" —Author Unknown" (that would be Johnny Mercer, by the way). Although the novel lacks any real perspective on America's repeated falls from grace, her giddy highs and crushing lows make for a refreshingly honest and eye-opening read. Agent, Jimmy Vines.(Sept.)

Forecast:This title is sure to catch the eye of its young, female target market—few novels, after all, score blurbs from Alanis Morissette and Janeane Garofalo.

Reviewed on: 08/20/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-7432-1913-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-2075-0
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