Fourth Estate - £12.99stg
Cintra Wilson's debut novel is a satirised indictment of the cult of celebrity and those who crave it. It's sometimes insightful and very damning, but it's too outrageous to be funny and is often unnerving in its subversion.
Liza Normal wants desperately to be famous. The trouble is, she's far from the cute-and-innocent child star that casting agents are looking for. Her heavy make up and gaudy costumes make her look like a vulgar nightclub act. There's no way she's ever going to make it big, but Liza's longing and her mother Peppy's ambition blind her to that fact.
As time goes by, and Liza's dream looks no nearer to coming true, she becomes increasingly disillusioned and marginalised. Involvement with a drug dealer and the post-hippie scene in San Francisco sees her descend into a sordid world of pseudo-celebrity, where most of the people around her are just as delusional as she is, but she still wants desperately to fit in. Liza floats along, always believing that her big opportunity is just around the corner and willing to do almost anything to hit the big time. It's only when Liza turns her back on Hollywood and its false promise that success, after a fashion, finally appears.
Though it has its insightful moments, 'Colours Insulting to Nature' tells us nothing new about the fame game and what it can do to those vulnerable enough to blindly pursue it, hoping it will fulfil them the way their present life can't. It's harrowing seeing Liza undergo the rejection she does and still foolishly believe fame will make her better.
While Liza's journey is realistic in some ways, the people who surround her and the world she inhabits are often too outrageous and bizarre to be seriously thought of. Liza is a kind of anti-celebrity, who has to be the ultimate subversive in order to make Wilson's point, but this makes the novel quite grim and disturbing to read.