Tag Archives: Eric Bogosian

Wasted Beauty

Wasted beauty

Like a dog with a bone, I’ve been racing through Eric Bogosian’s three novels and raving about them on this blog. The first one I came across was his most recent, Perforated Heart, while the second one I read was Mall. Sandwiched in between these two, he wrote Wasted Beauty (2005).  

All three novels focus on American culture, and I think it’s safe to say it’s a fairly scathing perspective. Or as Hillary Frey says, “this is the stuff of ugly American living.”

Do you hear a “but” coming? Okay, here it is … But I’m not sure I like all this ugly anymore. I do like “dark.” Dark is delicious. However, I think Wasted Beauty leans more towards “bleak.”

It focuses on two people. Reba, who at the age of 20, is left parent-less, penniless and without hope for the future:

Reba digs out an icy brick from the freezer and runs hot water over the pink and yellow slab of frozen flesh, letting it soften under her thumb. Above her head the rolly-eyed Felix-the-Cat clock swishes his stiff tail, marking time, second by second. The fridge growls just as Frank’s car starts up outside. So that’s that. I will swab the green and dirty-white linoleum tiles, thaw and fry the food, sponge Billy’s [her brother] pubic hairs off the toilet, iron his work shirts. And I will stand behind a counter at the bank all day, just like Mom did. I’ll take my cigarette breaks, a half hour for lunch and all the peppermints I can eat. Maybe someday I’ll grow a few tumors of my own. (p. 6)

A stumbling series of events find her in the big city, and working as a highly successful professional model. Okay, I know you’re thinking, “that sounds like a happy ending.” No, no, I’m afraid we’re heading into very dirty territory here — heroin addiction. An addiction described so well that you can almost feel the heavenly highs, as well as the sickly lows.

Rena’s life ends up intersecting with Rick’s, a doctor going through a major mid-life angst session. He, like Rena, doesn’t hold much hope for the future:

Just get on that old conveyor belt of life, pal, enjoy those golden years and reserve your space in the assisted community (with the attached Alzheimer ward), where you will wander anonymous corridors until you lose your mind completely. Senile and incontinent you will lie in bed day after day after day, a few photos of unrecognizable grandchildren taped to the wall beside you, TV set aflicker, a world spinning on without you. (p. 132) 

I’m 156 pages into Wasted Beauty, and I know I’ll keep on reading until the very last word. I have this gnawing feeling though, one that I didn’t get from the other novels, that all this achingly talented writing (“beauty”) might bring me no where worthwhile (“wasted”).

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MALL

As you might have guessed, I gave up on Edward. He and his little Twilight entourage did nothing for me. I felt bad just dumping him, especially when he was supposed to be so sexy and all. But, hey, c’est la vie. Us middle-aged women don’t have a whole lot of time to waste.

So, I’ve moved on to Eric. As in Eric Bogosian. If you clicked on that link, well, there’s no denying that he’s no pretty boy like Edward. But his mind is deep. And dark. (Plus, there’s always this picture, which is far better.)

Yeah, I did mention dark, didn’t I? Okay, so you’re forewarned. I raved about his most recent book Perforated Heart here. I loved that book so much that I thought I should chase down all his books and gobble them up. He’s well-known for his monologues and plays, but his first novel was MALL, published in 2000.

Mall 
Bits from the inside dust jacket:

An outrageous novel about five suburbanites whose lives intersect in one violent and life-altering night — at the local mall. In this, his first novel, Eric Bogosian delivers a dark, hilarious and biting commentary on an American culture fraught with sex, drugs, violence and congested thinking.

 

Reading this novel was like watching a really well-done suspense film. You want to turn away because you just know something bad is going to happen, but you just have to keep watching to see how it all blows up in the end.

I’m no book reviewer, so I’ll leave you with a summation from John Casey to tempt you into trying out this book:

“MALL is a fast wild ride from Chapter One — big acceleration through all five gears. What makes it a lot more than an action story is the series of swift shrewd psychological sketches of characters who happen to be at the wrong mall at the wrong time. You might think Pulp Fiction and you might think Ben Jonson and you’d be right both times.”

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Criminally addictive

Perforated HeartTelevision’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent has a character named Capt. Danny Ross. But it turns out that this actor, Eric Bogosian, is actually the author of a criminally addictive novel: Perforated Heart. I was stuck in bed for two days with the flu and had randomly picked this book up from a library shelf, as I tend to do, and I just couldn’t put it down.  

As I got sucked into this novel, I checked out the dust jacket picture, and lo’ and behold — it’s Capt. Ross! Naturally, many of you already know him from Talk Radio and his many other artistic successes. But somehow, they had escaped me until now.

If you liked Mordecai Richler’s caustic writing, a la Barney’s Version, I can recommend Perforated Heart for your summer reading pleasure.

I’m off to find all of Bogosian’s other novels and devour those too.

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