After eight novels dissecting every level of life in Hollywood, Bruce Wagner leaves Los Angeles in today's release, The Empty Chair: Two Novellas [Kindle], for Big Sur, New York, and Bombay. His most sincere and most spiritual book, it's first half is the story of Charley, a gay married man who achieves enlightenment after his son's suicide. Readers wouldn't know this, because Penguin's Blue Rider imprint has degayed the flap copy. The second half is the story of Queenie, "an aging wild child, returns to India to complete the spiritual journey of her youth."
Wagner's telltale blend of acid and empathy is not for everyone but please don't mistake his obsessions with fame, money, sex, and death as shallowness. Since his breakout I'm Losing You [Kindle], he has developed a serious following: The Chrysanthemum Palace was a PEN/Faulkner finalist and his splashiest book, Dead Stars [Kindle], was an unlikely pick for the top ten of 2012 at the Wall St Journal, which said, it
"is not just the best novel about Americans and fame of the past dozen years but the best since Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust… We all know the problems that Mr. Wagner is criticizing—we know about the idolization of people who became famous by way of sex tapes; we know about the mind-boggling traffic rates of online pornography; we know about plummeting educational standards and shortening attention spans. Sociologists give us statistics, and pundits write jeremiads. It takes an artist to make us feel the full horror and humanity of the situation."