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Los Angeles – with a twist

This funny, dark glimpse of La La Land hits a bull’s-eye.

by steven m. thomasPublished: October 01, 2012

Former UC Irvine writing instructor Bridget Hoida aims to capture the crazy intensity of L.A. culture in this debut novel, looking for humor and pathos among the startling lifestyle innovations and entertainment business clichés that La La Land is known for.
   
The book opens when protagonist Magdalena de la Cruz falls off a 51-foot yacht into the blue Pacific while filming a promo for Luxe, a mineral-water/herbal energy-supplement priced at a dollar an ounce.
   
Her husband is too deep in conversation with Miss Big Hollywood Somebody to notice the fallen model/businesswoman  (she owns the water company in partnership with her husband). She has to chant Hare Krishna to stay calm while waiting to be rescued.
   
The story flashes back to Magdalena’s history with her deceased brother, Junah. She blames herself for his death while rock climbing, and that guilt twines together with the pain of her deteriorating marriage to give the novel an emotional core sufficiently dark to contrast effectively with the brilliant SoCal setting.
   
This is literary fiction written with verve in short, diary-like episodes. The writer sometimes seems to be trying a little too hard to hit the high notes of Southland absurdity, but she pulls off some good scenes and gets some big laughs.


MORE RECOMMENDED READS

‘Dead Stars’
By Bruce Wagner
Blue Rider Press, 2012, $35
This harsh Hollywood satire features a fame-hungry adolescent – the world’s youngest breast cancer survivor – who spells the disease “kancer” and lusts for a spot on “Glee.”

‘Beautiful Ruins’
By Jess Walter
Harper, 2012, $25.99
A highly entertaining novel 15 years in the making, “Beautiful Ruins” is, in the author’s words, about “Hollywood now, Hollywood then,” among other things. NPR calls it “a literary miracle.”

‘Invisible Monsters Remix’
By Chuck Palahniuk
W.W. Norton & Company, 2012, $25.95
Palahniuk tells a wild fashion-industry tale about a pre-op transvestite and a supermodel who has been severely maimed.

QUICK FACT:
Founded in 1781, the city of Los Angeles was incorporated as an official municipality on April 4, 1850, five months before California achieved statehood.