Thursday, March 03, 2005

Force Majeure -- a review.

I've finished reading Force Majeure, by Bruce Wagner, and am still trying to sort out what I thought of it. He certainly tells a story well, as one might expect from someone who has written with success for TV. The guns on the wall in Act One always go off by the end of the play, and more often than not they nevertheless managed to take me by surprise with their discharge. Wagner's dialogue is snappy and sounds right, and he introduces a whole zoo of interesting characters, though only a few of them get to sound more than a note or two. But to what end? One of the reviews posted at Amazon refers to the novel as sociological, which sounds right; the book is more about LA (in the movie business sense) than Bud Wiggins, its protagonist. Are LA and the movie business so compelling? If you think so, read Wagner's stuff.

This profile of Wagner from LA Weekly is worth a read if you're interested in him. (Random personal fact: He was married briefly to actress Rebecca De Mornay.) Here's what it says about Force Majeure:

A picaresque novel about a dreamily disturbed screenwriter, Force Majeure leaned heavily on Wagner’s own experience as a down-and-out limo driver to the stars. Inspired by Don Quixote and Fitzgerald’s "Pat Hobby" stories, the book feels unique and almost unclassifiable, presented in a style so deadpan it’s as if the characters are locked behind a wall of bulletproof glass. Alternately poetic and vicious (it ends with the hero molesting a 10-year-old girl), the book demonstrated Wagner’s ability to write about Los Angeles in a genuinely original and lyrical way, and parts of it are very funny. Like the work of his friend (and fellow lover of De Mornay) Leonard Cohen, it is full of mock grandiosity — not art so much as a reverence for the idea of art, the literary masterpiece as spiritual quest. Bud Wiggins, a "lucid dreamer," is a screenwriter, after all, which is to say a near-writer, and his depression is buffered by Vicodin and fantasy.

It also appears that Wagner is one of Ron Rosenbaum's edgy enthusiasms, surely a mark in his favor, but alas the New York Observer now makes you pay to read articles in its archives.

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