Olivia Goldsmith assumes you already read Entertainment Weekly, so you know how actresses are sometimes — well, rarely — discovered while waiting tables in flyspecked diners in dust-smeared Texas towns with names like Hillock and Clump. She figures you’re up on trendy L.A. restaurants, acclaimed film directors who grew up on the mean streets of New York City, studly actors who have discovered fatherhood in their 50s, and models whose remarkable, anatomically impossible breasts swell out of their Versace bustiers like casaba melons. (Or maybe it’s honeydews.) And she bets that you’re wise enough, cynical enough, sane enough, and — darn it — mean enough to know that all the Hollywood glamour in the world can’t buy happiness. (This, by the way, is known as the Average Person’s Prayer.)
Well, it’s lousy attitudes like yours (and, darn it, mine) that make Goldsmith’s Flavor of the Month (Poseidon, $23) such a satisfying, industry- tweaking, sticky-fingered hoot. And that place this big, fat, tart novel by the author of The First Wives Club on the shelf with others of that gloriously tatty genre, the Sex & Shopping Novel.
You know the genre, I’m sure you do — books that are built around a gimmick (Take Over Business, Humiliate Hubby, Build Empire), starring ballbusting women and sonofabitch men who get what’s coming to them. Loaded with details and musky with S-E-X, these novels are sprinkled with the names of real people so that just when you (and the libel lawyers) are sure a character is based on, say, Warren Beatty, in walks the real Warren Beatty. And (this is most important) they’re stocked with arousingly expensive, erotically charged, name-brand sheets and shoes and cars and stuff.
Into this Gold MasterCard universe comes Olivia Goldsmith, wielding a pen far sharper, far wittier, and far hipper than those of her older sisters Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins. And in this, her second novel, Goldsmith broadens her target: Where The First Wives Club romped in a contained orgy of revenge wreaked on no-goodnik husbands by a trio of wronged exes, Flavor of the Month skewers — among others — crude agents, scheming starlets, barracuda producers (male and female), shallow actors, in-your-face comedians, Mommie Dearest mother-daughter acts, and high-priced security-consultants-to-the- stars. This time, the recipe is like so: Three women, Hollywood unknowns, overcome wildly differing pasts to star in Three for the Road (think Charlie’s Angels on motorcycles, roaring across America in the ’60s), TV’s white-hottest new series. Then everything juicily, righteously falls apart. It’s hubris, babe, a Greek tragedy! Fade to credits.
Goldsmith’s pinky-ringed, ham-fisted plot kabooms along with all the subtlety of Madonna entering the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Oscar night. But, hey, it works. The canny author knows you know that all the liposuction in the world cannot repair a loveless heart clogged with insecurity. She knows you know that big Nielsen numbers can’t warm a lonely bed. She knows you’ve got your head screwed on straight, even when Jahne and Lila and Sharleen (those are our three girls) don’t. She’s betting you’ll appreciate her wicked good spirits and essentially compassionate heart and her ability to write a nice hot sex scene or two. (Oh, did I forget to mention that?)
The Flavor of the Month doesn’t quite have the satisfying Up yours! power of The First Wives Club, but that’s okay: Sometimes you just want a Sex & Shopping book that gives The Business the business. A-