cover image Force Majeure

Force Majeure

Bruce Wagner. Random House (NY), $23 (468pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58261-0

Heavily in debt and depressed, forever-up-and-coming Hollywood screenwriter Bud Wiggins, who chauffeurs a limo to earn a steady income, drifts aimlessly from bed to bed and from one wacky script idea to the next. Bud, striving to feel ``rooted and mature, in the Now,'' lives with his suffocating, kvetching mom, Dolly, master of the Jewish guilt-trip. Bud is haunted by memories of Jeanette, the ``smart hillbilly Baptist from Tennessee'' he almost married, and of Brian, a surgeon roommate who committed suicide. Screenwriter Wagner ( Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills ) peoples this wickedly sardonic, literate, frequently hilarious novel with familiar types--a nihilistic producer, an aging film star, an obnoxious mogul--and with startling characters like The Rav, a wild-eyed mystic would-be rabbi. Wagner gleefully rips out the livid, still-beating heart of Hollywood to expose its class system, its built-in vulgarity, its shrinks, AA meetings, starlets, harlots, climbers and burn-outs. Wagner is a hip sociologist of ferocious veracity and methodical precision. (Aug.)