MALL by Eric Bogosian (Simon & Schuster/Distican), 246 pages, $34 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
eric bogosian doesn't waste time. Five pages into Mall, somebody's already killed his mom and torched the family home. The action escalates from there.Thirty-five-year-old speed freak Mal heads to the mall with his arsenal of weapons to do more damage. In the meantime, unhappy housewife Donna is flaunting it in the JC Penney change rooms for hip executive and first-time voyeur Danny, who promptly gets busted by the cops.
Dreamer teen Jeff is tripping and in love with sadistic bad girl Adelle. And security guard Michel is trying to keep his dignity.
This is Bogosian's first novel, and he's used all his skills to make it work. The playwright in him builds the tension relentlessly, and the solo-show performer in him likes to let his characters do the talking. As a fiction writer, Bogosian takes the opportunity to find a different route into their heads, which gives him a freedom he does not abuse.
This is a satiric novel about alienation and American appetites gone out of control: Brett Easton Ellis goes to the suburbs. The violence is quick and brutal, and so is the sex. But you can't call it exploitative. Ever since Talk Radio, media manipulation has been been one of Bogosian's subtexts.
Which is what makes this book so smart. That plus the fact that, except for psycho guy Mal, the characters can do really bad things without making us feel like they're bad people.SUSAN G. COLE