GLOSS - Jennifer Oko
New York City and Prison
Annabelle Kapner produced a regular segment called American Ideal for New Day, USA, the ZBC network's morning show...until she wound up in jail for supporting terrorists. Her pieces were mainly light in tone -- no one wants anything too serious first thing in the morning. But then her boss told her to do a piece on Cosmetic Relief, an organization that, through donations from Vanity Cosmetics, helps the women in the refugee camps of the small nation of Fardistan feel better about themselves. It was a good piece, people said; then Annie went on to another. She was up to her heavily booted ankles in a snake pit -- it was rattler roundup time in Texas -- when she got the phone call that led to her looking more deeply into Cosmetic Relief and, ultimately, to jail. Now with scandal and danger erupting around her, can she dig her way out?
Just before all this started, Annabelle met and connected with Mark Thurber, a senior White House aide and vice-presidential speech writer whom People magazine called D.C.'s most eligible bachelor. The gossip columns made the most of their being seen together. But now that Annie has become a hot item in the press and on the news, where is Mark?
Amidst the intrigue that surrounds Annie, she is lucky to have one or two real friends among the hundreds who wish to exploit her; the others are caricatures of the shallow, self-serving sorts.
GLOSS opens with a prologue in which Annabelle is in jail; Part One is mainly Annie's voice relating what led up to her imprisonment; Part Two jumps to the present tense and chronicles her efforts to clear herself and find the truth behind what has become a front-page scandal. In this, she has the help of those interesting friends. While the style is unusual, both narrative and dialogue flows smoothly. The changes in tense and voice are not at all jarring.
Satire might be too strong a word for GLOSS, so let's call it a humorous send-up of the TV industry and today's pop culture where fame is an end in itself. I must confess a personal bias against books featuring reporters and show-biz personalities, not to mention politicians; yet, against expectations, I enjoyed GLOSS very much. Ms. Oko's eye is sharp and her pen as sharp, as she bares the quirks and flaws in an industry she knows from the inside. Yet she sees what it sometimes manages to be. GLOSS's heroine and hero are basically good people caught up in something for which neither is guilty, though they may have forgotten their youthful ideals for a time. In that, don't they personify us all as well as our institutions?
Don't let the unappealing cover stop you from picking up the book; you'll understand its significance once you see what Annabelle uncovers. GLOSS is an entertaining, delightfully irreverent, and enlightening work of fiction.
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