Dead Stars is Bruce Wagner’s most lavish and
remarkable translation yet of the national zeitgeist: post-privacy porn
culture, a Kardashian world of rapid-cycling, disposable narrative where
reality-show triumph is the new American narcotic.
At age thirteen, Telma is famous as the world’s youngest
breast cancer survivor until threatened with obscurity by a four-year-old
Canadian who’s just undergone a mastectomy. Reeyonna believes that auditioning
for pregnant-teen porn online will help fulfill her dream of befriending Jennifer
Lawrence and Kanye West. Biggie, the neurologically impaired adolescent son of
a billionaire, spends his days Google Map searching for his mother, who
abandoned home and family for a new love. Jacquie, a photographer once
celebrated for taking arty nudes of her young daughter, is broke and working at
Sears Family Portrait Boutique. Tom-Tom, a singer/drug dealer thrown off the
third season of American Idol for concocting a hard-luck story, is
hell-bent on creating her own television series in the Hollywood Hills, peopled
by other reality-show losers. Jerzy, her sometime lover, is a speed-freak
paparazzo who “specializes” in capturing images of dying movie and television
stars. And Oscar-winning Michael Douglas searches for meaning in his time of
remission. While his wife, Catherine, guest stars on Glee, the actor
plans a bold, artistic, go-for-broke move: to star in and direct a remake of
Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz.
There is nothing quite like a Bruce Wagner novel. His prose is
captivating and exuberant and surprises with profound truths on spirituality,
human nature, and redemption. Dead Stars moves forward with the
inexorable force of a tsunami, sweeping everyone in its fateful path. With its
mix of imaginary and real-life characters, it is certain to be the most
challenging, knowing, and controversial book of the year.
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