Fictitious biography of an ambitious Gen-X singer-songwriter cut down by the slings and arrows of the music industry, and the haunted journalist who finds meaning in her struggle. Shiner’s fourth (after Glimpses, 1993, etc.) isn’t another rewrite of A Star Is Born, although the biographer-narrator here sees ample signs of impending greatness in his subject. An alienated product of a broken middle-class marriage, Laurie Moss, 27, leaves San Antonio, Texas, with a notebook of lyrics and a guitar given to her by her father shortly after he abandoned her mother and younger brother. She drives her battered car to L.A., determined to fulfill her adolescent dreams of pop stardom, and discovers some equally disaffected musicians who help her record her first demo tape. Among them is Skip Shaw, a grizzled, self-loathing 1960s relic who recorded a few hit songs before burning out on drugs. Flattered by Skip’s respect and intrigued by his painful past, Laurie risks breaking up the band when she takes him to bed. More humiliations follow until Laurie and her band sign a contract with a record company whose gassy executives seem more interested in selling her work as a comeback vehicle for Skip Shaw. Laurie makes an MTV video, embarks on a small club concert tour where she realizes that, as long as she can cut loose onstage, she can endure anything—the defections of Skip and her keyboard player, the company’s decision to drop her when her record doesn’t sell fabulously. Finally defeated by a family tragedy and excessive bad luck, Laurie returns to Texas, where an awkward meeting with her biographer suggests that what is failure for some may be inspiration for others. Gritty, funny, cynical, and sentimental: a sharply focused epic that brings welcome revision to the sunny, pop-culture success gospels that have led so many naive talents astray.