The Diviners by Rick Moody (Time Warner), 567 pages, $34.95 cloth. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
In his first novel in seven years , Rick Moody delivers a sprawling romp that goes for contemporary North America's jugular with cringe-inducing accuracy. Set in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, the book's 500-plus pages skewer independent film, television, the cult of celebrity, yoga, contemporary art, food and sex addiction.
Its anti-heroine, Vanessa Meandro (nicknamed Mini-van), is the head of independent New York film studio Means of Production and an unstoppable Krispy Kreme-addicted force of nature.
She uses a combo of intimidation and incomprehensible art-speak to wrangle the rights to an elusive television script, an epic saga that follows a tribe of water dowsers from the steppes of ancient Mongolia to modern Las Vegas.
Meandro is convinced the script, promising a loyal audience and endless spinoff potential, will allow her studio to recover money stolen by a disgruntled accountant. Problem is, there is no actual script.
In Meandro's terrified employ are an assistant secretly working on a script about the Marquis de Sade's wife, a silken-tongued Sikh cab driver whose cosmic philosophy of media wins him a production assistant's job and an action film star who hangs at the studio for intellectual cred when he isn't banging yoga instructors.
Scrambling for love, integrity, recognition and the golden script, all these characters display astonishingly accurate perspectives on our current dysphoria, galloping along in Moody's singularly stylized, marathon-length sentences.
The twisting tale builds up a lot of steam with its dozens of subplots and characters, but ultimately it can't deliver the mighty comic ending we might have hoped for, showing us more about the varieties of modern vanity than its effects.
But this is a novel about our bottomless thirst in the desert that is contemporary life, and Moody's prose paints a mean mirage.
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