Colors Insulting to Nature: A Novel

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9780007154609: Colors Insulting to Nature: A Novel

Look deep into your heart, Gentle Reader. Deep, deep, deep; past your desire for true love, for inexhaustible riches or uncontested sexual championship, for the ability to fight crime and restore peace to a weary world. Underneath all this, if you are a true, red-blooded American, you'll find the throbbing desire to be famous.

Liza Normal wants fame worse than air, food, sleep, or self-preservation. Her talents are slim, but she's been raised on a crash diet of Hollywood "I-can-do-it!" mythology, game-show anthems, and Love's Baby Soft–scented teen dreams. According to the delusional logic inherent in these value-starved sources, the key to Making It Big as a pop star is to simply want it badly enough and Believe in Yourself (and to follow the B-movie template for becoming one of life's golden winners -- see page 20). And so, innocent Liza's disco-ball fantasies are bowled down the yellow brick road, on a direct collision course with that whirling hall of hammers: Reality. She endures a wretched series of mishaps on the road to failure: disastrous love affairs, scorching humiliations. But Liza, a far better human than the two-dimensional starlet she thinks she wants to be, is indestructible.

In Colors Insulting to Nature, Cintra Wilson has fused ahilarious yet strangely touching coming-of-age story with a blistering satire of our celebrity-debased culture. In a world where unknowns compete to wear their ethical pants around their ankles on TV, where actors become presidents and plucky American Idols claw their way to stardom over the corpses of the dreams of a million wishful losers, Colors Insulting to Nature shocks us into seeing ourselves as we truly are, not as we think we look when we make that French pout face in the mirror. Not since John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, Martin Amis's Money, or, yes, Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel has an antihero peeled away the lamination of our society with such savage glee and empathy. Laugh, cry, cringe with self-recognition: Colors Insulting to Nature is a brilliant achievement.

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Review:

Authors who write about the entertainment industry often extend promises of wit and edginess to attract an audience. Colors Insulting to Nature, by Salon columnist Cintra Wilson, delivers these qualities because it enters the fray not with a forgettably likeable protagonist predestined for a happy ending, but with an axe to grind. The object of Wilson's loathing is the "ego-porn" Hollywood that turns out formulaic story lines, making hapless, mediocre talents believe that their dreams of fame can somehow come true.

The central mediocre talent in this book is Liza Normal, who first appears in the story as an adolescent auditioning for a spot in a commercial. Imagine the child version of the Bette Midler character in Beaches and you're about halfway to understanding the tragic gaudiness of Liza's persona--though of course she is a sweet girl underneath it all. The novel follows Liza into adulthood, bringing other vividly drawn characters, including her shut-in brother, Ned, her narcissistic, alcoholic mother, Peppy, and a sadomasochistic dwarf named DelVonn along for the ride. Liza's cringingly funny attempts to win fame as an actress-singer never stop--and neither does Wilson's railing against the logic-corrupting, "ultimately demoralizing" messages from film and television that Liza has ingested from infancy. Will our heroine ever turn her life around and figure out that The Media made her do it? Will Wilson succeed in breaking free of formulas, or end up undercutting her own message with a fairy-tale ending? Readers who are drawn to darker comedies will enjoy finding the answers, and find this novel impossible to put down. --Leah Weathersby

About the Author:

Cintra Wilson is a pop culture pundit whose column for Salon.com and collection of essays, A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque Crippling Disease, have garnered her a cult following. An award-winning playwright and screenwriter, she has seen her work produced by Tim Robbins's Actor's Gang theater company in Los Angeles, Naked Angels in New York, and MTV, where her creation Winter Steele was a long-running segment of Liquid Television. She lives in New York City.

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