Still Holding by Bruce Wagner

Entertainment & the Arts: Sunday, December 28, 2003

 

“Still Holding”: A farce of fakery in Hollywood

By Mark Lindquist
Special to The Seattle Times

How much hypocrisy, insanity, neediness, dysfunction and delusion can an author stuff into a novel of just under 300 pages? If the author is Bruce Wagner and the subject is Hollywood, the answer is a big fat amazing boatload.

In “Still Holding,” Wagner’s multiple story lines revolve around 34-year-old movie star Kit Lightfoot, a practicing Buddhist and People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” Everyone loves Kit, except Kit. “He hated the way he acted, the way he spoke, the way he thought.”

His girlfriend is a vulgar TV actress named Viv Wembley, who seems to most enjoy sitting on the toilet while she gives miscellaneous orders to her personal assistant. Kit and Viv have nothing in common but fame. In fact, the debilitating craving for fame is what links most of Wagner’s characters.

Becca Mondrain, a Drew Barrymore look-alike, becomes Viv’s assistant while she’s waiting for her proverbial big break. Her boyfriend is a Russell Crowe look-alike. They are both up for parts in a new Spike Jonze movie about look-alikes, “about the nature of celebrity and what this town does to people.”

Kit, meanwhile, is up for a Darren Aronofsky-directed movie about a movie star who becomes brain damaged in a car crash, just as he’s about to do a movie about a mentally handicapped man. Then, as the meta-ironies pile up, Kit is bonked on the head with a bottle by a Kit Lightfoot look-alike and, yep, Kit suffers brain damage himself.

As farcical as the plot twists become, the novel never loses its documentary sense of authenticity. Real-life celebrities mingle with Wagner’s fictional creations, a technique others have used, but Wagner takes it to a new extreme. The fictional characters seem no less real, and no more fake, than the real-life characters.

In a repetitive ironic touch, raging egoists take up Buddhism, feeding their egos through a pose of ego-negation.

Wagner’s only failing may be that in his successful effort to be merciless, virtually every character is despicable or pathetic, except for maybe Rob Reiner, which makes for a long 296 pages.