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LIGHTNING FIELD by Dana Spiotta

LIGHTNING FIELD

By Dana Spiotta

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2001
ISBN: 0-7432-1261-4
Publisher: Scribner

The glittering if ephemeral distractions of life in the City of Angels are lampooned with a wry, knowing touch, in a funny first novel by a writer who grew up “surrounded by the movie industry.”

Everyone knows that if you live in L.A., you drive everywhere. Even when the destination is just to the corner, the sidewalks serve only an ornamental purpose. So Mina’s insistence on walking just about everywhere she goes seems not just strange to her friends and husband but more than a little affected. Affectation, however, is the name of the game for almost everyone here. Mina’s best friend, Lorena, is a walking encyclopedia of fashion, her antennae tuned to the slightest shiftings in the cultural winds. Mina herself is the underachieving, neurotic daughter of a once-wealthy film-industry family who now spends her time working in one of Lorena’s restaurants, squabbling with her screenwriter husband, David, and having affairs with two other men. She’s always late to everything and doesn’t have much purpose in life or a driving need to find one. The story, which amounts to little more than interior musings by the characters as they go about their daily routines, is mostly an excuse for Spiotta to engage in some amusing takes on the post-everything ennui of modern-day Los Angeles—including a chain of holistic-therapy clinics where clients cure their inner ills with programs like Tactile Hue Therapy and Spiritual Exfoliation and Detoxification. A featherweight dusting of surreal comedy keeps the proceedings engagingly light but grow disorienting when Spiotta tries to dig into deeper territory. The peripheral character of Lisa, Lorena’s cleaning woman, is depicted without the sure hand Spiotta brings to her other, non–working-class characters. Meanwhile, Lisa’s situation, with her money woes, angry husband, and demanding children, comes off as fake and artificial, the author resorting to cultural clichés when she ventures into what seems to be unfamiliar territory.

Mostly unmemorable people, but a witty satire, nonetheless, about the lives of the idle and beautiful.