A Hollywood native takes a satirical poke at art and fame in his debut novel.
In art school, Isabel Raven was known for her technical ability and apparent lack of originality or vision. While these qualities were not prized by her peers or her teachers, they’re just what she needs to become one of the “fine art facsimilists.” Her job is faking the minor works of great artists for status-conscious, culturally deficient billionaires. This is a great idea for a novel, and it could have been the setup for a mordantly entertaining one. Disappointingly, the author uses Isabel’s career as court painter to Los Angeles’s nouveau riche as backstory (leaving us to imagine, with some longing, what might have been had Bruce Wagner gotten to this idea first). Isabel’s lucrative and high-profile career is that of faker with a twist: She inserts celebrity faces into well-known masterpieces—think American Gothic with Tom and Katie. As he sends his heroine careening through an antic dystopia plagued by wildfires, earthquakes, teen singing sensations and omnipresent advertisements for vaginal rejuvenation, Selwood assembles a series of cloyingly madcap vignettes that hold little interest on their own and fail to adhere as a whole. One of the book’s irritatingly oddball characters praises L.A. for its superficiality and, in doing so, offers a paean to surfaces themselves. Selwood seems to offer this philosophical turn as a justification for his aggressive, pointless, not-quite-hip novel, and the argument doesn’t hold.
As slight as Paris Hilton, and just about as smart.