The author's patented sly under-30 humor renders her first novel a triumphant addition to a canon that already includes an essay collection, Depth Takes a Holiday (1996), and her much-feted one-woman show, ``Aliens in America.'' If Bronwyn Peters is such a good young liberal, listening to NPR, giving money to good causes and stalwartly maintaining a bohemian lifestyle in the wasteland of Tujunga, a tract-house suburb not far from L.A., how come so many bad things keep happening to her? Once the hip batik-wearing girlfriend of the most successful writing student at San Jose State, Bronwyn is still, six years later (at the onset of the '90s) just ``the girlfriend,'' while writer Paul, whose attempts to sell a screenplay keep bombing, sinks deeper and deeper into a showbiz-induced depression. They're also sinking slowly into debt, but worst of all is Bronwyn's sense that despite Paul's Talent they're really just extras in someone else's movie--two anonymous, black-clad members of ``Los Angeles' vast, undocumented hip,'' with ``the crust of disappointment. . .all over them, the wild-eyed, sunburned despair.'' Yet Paul refuses to share Bronwyn's dream of ditching this city in favor of East Coast academia--even when her women's studies fellowship is canceled in favor of a new minority studies program (``It's the ethnics against the women!'' her advisor whispers). By the time the L.A. riots destroy any chance that Bronwyn and Paul will ever crawl out from under their real estate debt and escape L.A., Bronwyn has realized that she and Paul are simply not destined to win in this world--and that there's not really anything to do about it but get married and live as happily as possible. If some of Loh's comic references are a bit shopworn (corporate promotional parties, showbiz talk), that doesn't mean they aren't dead-on funny and true.