Bookmarks Issue: 

A Novel

A-ColorsInsultingNatureLiza Normal moves through adolescence, tormented and tantalized by her washed-up mother’s aspirations in show business. With dubious talent, Liza pursues dreams of fame and glamour that usually land her in compromising situations. She journeys through various Californian subcultures, from punk to New Age, and often perseveres through her trials because of her acquaintance with the lure of glitz and the Hollywood myth. Through her mom, and her reclusive brother, columnist Wilson satirizes our national obsession with celebrity culture.
Fourth Estate. 368 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0007154607

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"[Wilson] can, in fact, shoehorn her essay voice into a narrative structure, and the results are riotous and harrowing. … It’s an impressive, maybe even great, comic novel." M. E. Russell

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"The only drawback to Wilson’s relentless comedy is that when Colors Insulting To Nature turns to graver topics, such as AIDS, drug addiction, and earthquakes, it’s difficult to be moved by it, because the moment of seriousness is ensconced in such a frothy, three-ringed-circus of comedy." Jenny Shank

San Diego Union-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Colors [is] a funny, lurid, grisly guide to survival (or not) in a culture choking on an ever-thicker tide of mass-mediated pop trash." James Leigh

San Francisco Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Wilson has a journalist’s eye for the telling detail and a talent for depicting types. That’s a problem with the novel: Most of the supporting cast is caricatures." Reagan Upshaw

USA Today 2 of 5 Stars
"[Wilson’s] wordiness is a turn-off …. It is never a good sign when the reader begins to calculate how many pages are left; and at 350 pages, the book is way too long." Deirdre Donohue

Critical Summary

Reviewers found Wilson’s first novel entertaining, and most deemed her a talented writer with a sharp eye for satire. The novel is a fictional remix of Wilson’s A Massive Swelling, a non-fiction collection of Salon columns recounting the disfiguring effect of celebrity on its seekers, in theme and tone. Some critics thought that Colors aptly captured the insights of stardom in fictional form; others thought that Wilson should stick to her columns. Similarly, a few reviewers loved her outlandish humor and prose, which bogged others down. And, same goes for the characters—are they fully realized, or cardboard cut-outs? Either way, if you enjoy watching the Oscars, you’ll probably enjoy this turbulent red carpet of a ride.