Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lightning Field by Dana Spiotta

Three women navigate LA

Mina, apparently the only woman who walks in Los Angeles, has an unfilled marriage and somehow, considering how passive she is, manages to pick up two lovers, who also leave her unfulfilled. She is employed by Lorena, her schizophrenic brother’s ex-lover. Lorena is a lifestyle consultant who establishes decadent theme restaurants, where, for example, waitresses are assigned the floor based on their astrological chart. Finally, there is downmarket fearful mom Lisa, who cleans Lorena’s house. These three characters drift through an LA where people straightfacedly espouse the trendiest of ideas, and film industry hangers on try to repeat the successes of famous artists of the past.

The prose style is a little hard to follow – there’s a lot of characters in a fairly short book. I kept getting the women mixed up (Maybe I was supposed to?) Many of the same themes here are also in Spiotta's Stone Arabia: the terror of child murders, the aimlessness of LA, the mental illness, the close yet painfully unbridgeable proximity to fame. Those themes, however, have far more emotional resonance and, in fact, beauty, in Stone Arabia. Lightning Field feels slighter, like thin gruel. This wasn’t quite realism yet never quite launched into surrealism. It’s like a satire of LA. The book also reminded me of Less Than Zero, though the attitude here was more whimsical, not so deadly serious.

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