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Colors Insulting to Nature Paperback – 1 Aug 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (1 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007154593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007154593
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,147,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Reviews for Wilson’s plays:

‘Incisive, inflamed, inflammatory, offensive, astute, vulgar, mean, wildly funny, compassionate, and sweeping’ Boston Globe

‘A brilliant writer with a deliciously warped and blisteringly wiseass take’ Entertainment Weekly

‘Storms the cheesy walls of popular culture like a band of punk-chick Visigoths, and ravages the sequin clad icons within’ Time Out New York

‘If she keeps being so funny and brutal, she’ll end up famous herself’ USA Today

About the Author

Cintra Wilson is a playwright, essayist and former columnist. Her essays on the disease of celebrity were collected into a book called A Massive Swelling and functioned as research for this novel. She lives in New York; Colors Insulting To Nature is her first novel.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Paul Gascoigne should stop in his self-aggrandizement,and sit slump-faced,adjacent to the mirror and attempt to discover how circumstances have reached such a pitch of pathos/bathos.To exist for a moment under the scrutiny of the camera lens is akin to emerging from the clinical depression of perversions held up by accidentally pseudo serendipitous conditioning so attractive to hyper-stimulated and destructively ambitious prols.It is a brutal and hilarious melodrama (existence,that is),and our interaction with our peers and idols depends upon accidental and arbitrary opportunities counteracting the colossally crushing,establishment inculcations.Few escape the viper within.Cintra lets you into an open secret,hidden within us all,necessarily so because the truth of our nature is too much for us to bear.Unless,of course,you are of a similar mind-set to Francis Bacon...Yeah right....
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8b5263d8) out of 5 stars 21 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8af4c0a8) out of 5 stars Painfully funny 27 Aug. 2004
By Lisa Brackmann - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A full frontal assault against celebrity worship and its deletorious effect on the American psyche, "Colors Insulting to Nature" is not a perfect novel. There are a few too many authorial asides restating the theme - yes, we get that basing your life decisions on the movie "Fame" is not a path to personal happiness. That said, this is one of the funniest books I have ever read. The protagonists' staging of "Sound Of Music" is the best kind of parody - one done with affection and understanding of the source material - and had me laughing so hard that I nearly aspirated my burrito. Highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8af4c0fc) out of 5 stars Funny, sad, and thoughtful look at fame and coming of age 2 Dec. 2004
By booksforabuck - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While in a drunken depression, Peppy Normal discovers her life-path from the movie Fame. She'll enroll her children in the New York High School of Performing Arts--on their way to become celebrities. Their modest talent didn't matter--she'd incorporated the lessons of the movie deeply into her life. Unfortunately, that also meant inflicting them on her daughter, Liza. The first step toward New York was, perversely, in the opposite direction--to California. There Peppy opens the Normal Dinner Theater (where dinner was never served) and dresses pre-Freshman Liza like a tramp to take her to auditions and cattle-calls.

With this background, Liza grows up (to the extent her aging process can be called growing up) confused and waiting for that one magical break. A colony of elves teaches her to use drugs to help the breakthrough and she tries this. While her brother retreats into himself, Liza takes the opposite course, finally ending up in L.A. in an ultimate moment of degradation and humiliation. The one thing she finds that she can make money at has no appeal to her. She wants to be a famous singer--no matter how modest her talent.

Author Cintra Wilson teases the reader with author notes, and sends us on a roller-coaster rides of laugh-out-loud humor (certainly the performance of Sound of Music qualifies) and dark depression. The curse of fame and the easy myths that Hollywood perpetuates conspire to keep Liza from enjoying the few good things that do happen to her--there's always hope of that big break just around the corner.

Wilson's writing style is conversational, engaging the reader. Her characters are definitely over-the-top, but Liza's horrible high school experience will ring true with many readers, and who hasn't toyed with the notion that they are only a discovery away from being a star. COLORS INSULTING TO NATURE is a fascinating and highly readable novel. I recommend it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f4910b4) out of 5 stars A unique story by a great contemporary writer 17 Nov. 2004
By Sardonica - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The profuoundly gifted Cintra Wilson is the Roland Spring of modern cultural criticism--"rare, supreme and without context, like a zebra born in an abandoned grocery store." Certain writers are so adept at language and acute in their observations on life, and the modern world, you find yourself unconsciously imitiating their form of expression--not because you want to steal their thunder but because their prose is so resonant and inspiring that it's subliminally altered your consciousness. Although very few can do it as gracefully and with such rapier wit as Wilson. I've only read a few essays from _A Massive Swelling_ previously, but I was similarly stunned at the breadth of her pop culture savvy and her strikingly original, eloquent and hilarious writing style. I was so sad when the novel ended, I'll need to begin reading the essay collection as soon as possible.

_Colors Insulting to Nature_ is a scathing yet deeply heartfelt story of a moderately, if unexceptionally, talented teen would-be chanteuse with ambitions of fame bordering on Faustian--willing, in effect, to sell nearly every molecule of self-respect she's been dubiously endowed with by her boozy, self-absorbed and delusional train wreck of a mother. Peppy Normal's parenting skills are questionable to say the least, but she does manage to pass on to Liza the legacy of dreams and values gleaned directly from sappy/"inspirational" movies, a masochistic bloodlust for attention in all its debasing forms, a desire to immerse oneself in the world of artifice, and a taste for garish eye makeup. A class-A vicarious-living stage mom, she tries to brutally impose the song-and-dance act on Liza's brother Ned, who is pathologically anxious, socially withdrawn and hopelessly uncoordinated.

The narrative follows Liza, first wobbling precariously in ridiculous spike heels at 14; stomping defiantly in kickass steel-toed combat boots at 16; fluttering barefoot as a strung-out sprite in a hallucinogenic reverie at 21; and sauntering in dominatrix-lite fetish footwear at 23, down her pothole-addled Yellow Brick Road toward self-discovery (although the character would rightfully roll her eyes and spit out some type of withering invective at that statement).

Her quest for true love is arguably even more tunnel-visioned than her quest for fame--and what is that longing for fame, really, except universal and unconditional acceptance and love?--which takes her through a number of wretchedly compelling affairs, from an adolescent love/hate banter with a wealthy young rogue to a slick hustler with a Pygmalion complex to a fallen boy-band idol, while she pines for her formative Ideal Object, the fantastically talented and magnetic Roland Spring, whose true, effortless star quality she emulates as much as envies.

Liza, a deeply flawed but very sympathetic protagonist (and not just because this reviewer had similar, ahem, Star Search pretentions in the early 80's) suffers humilation upon humilation in her naive pursuit of the Dream, but remains doggedly resilient throughout the story. In Liza's ability to pick herself up and continue the journey against all (painfully realistic, not film-contrived) odds, she ultimately bests the "winners never quit" cliches of her beloved Hollywood tripe.

For one to write so astutely about cultural phenomena large and small (her synopsis of 80's "Streetsploitation" film _Breakin'_ was one of the many, many laugh-out-loud vignettes), one has to have presumably spent a little time deep in the belly of the beast. Wilson would be worthwhile reading even if she only dealt in brilliant, highly detailed deconstructions of movies, sitcoms, bands, and subcultures, but that's the tip of the iceberg. The novel succeeds as so such more than a GenX coming-of-age story because those pop-culture digressions, however ingenuous and funny, embellish larger themes such as the search for one's identity, conflicted relationships with family, the paradox of "being true to oneself" and having no idea what that IS, the mythology created and perpetuated by the media, and the complicated nature of love. The supporting characters are also fleshed-out and interesting, and it's nice to see their lives outside the filter of Liza's basically good-hearted and smart but somewhat self-involved perspective.

My only very minor criticism is that in setting the novel in the not-so-distant past (the story spans 1984-1993), certain details--fashions, slang expressions, cultural icons, technology and the like--are a little jumbled at times, which could have been sniffed out by an obsessive pop-cuture geek/ fact checker. That's minutae, however. This was an excellent read from one of the brightest, um, stars, on the literary scene.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8af4c384) out of 5 stars an interesting, usually funny book undermined by bad editing 24 Sept. 2005
By M. Allen - Published on
Format: Paperback
i enjoyed this book for the most part--cintra wilson can write amazingly funny descriptions of her characters and their situations--but the editorial lapses throughout the book drove me crazy and undermined the genius that could have been this book. and, they were stupid editorial oversights: spelling one character's name alternately as "faun bell" and "fawn bell;" describing chocho as having "muy thai" and "mui thai" boxing skills; and one unforgivable section in part VII: "The joke, presumably, was to ask the humorless, elderly 'Pansy' for a 'Hand Job.' Liza watched Pansy drone, 'Why, sir, never on a first date,' for what must have been the eighty-thousandth time..." (p. 317). sort of funny, right? the problem is, liza is in california at this time, not las vegas where the scene is taking place--peppy, earl and winnie are in the bar where pansy is enacting this painfully bad piece of situational comedy. liza doesn't get to the same bar in vegas until p. 324, which is where i can only assume this description was supposed to be put in. wilson notes how much she loves her editor in the end pages, but i can't help but think she seriously dropped the ball on continuity. the story is obscenely funny in parts, and i agree with the previous reviewer that the first half of the book is the strongest. i also agree that peppy's ending did not ring true to me at all--along with the cirrhosis she should have so rightly developed, i could see her ending more tragically than she does--which again was distracting from an otherwise strong book. i did like liza's ultimate fate, and especially ned's. the golden stag motif was interesting but too prevalent, particularly wilson's portrayal as herself as such, which i found to be a little obnoxious. the whole point of the golden stag is that it is ephemeral, not tangible, and one can never catch it, only pursue it. no offense to a very talented writer, and i wish i could write as well, but you're not the golden stag of literature...less hubris, please. that being said, the characters (particularly delvonn chaka khan d'shawn) were very well-established and wilson deftly plied them with the ironies of their own caricaturistic natures. i look forward to her next book, and hope that the bonds of love professed in the end pages do not blind her to the fact that she desperately needs a new editor.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8af4c5c4) out of 5 stars Not only hilarious, it's touching 17 Nov. 2004
By CB - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even if I hadn't known Cintra for over ten years and enjoyed her previous work, I would still have loved this book. Liza speaks to that core of many of us who want only to be loved and admired and to feel like we fit in. I was as touched as much as I was amused by Liza's adventures, and the dead-on authenticity of the cultural backdrop contributed equally to the hilarity and the poignancy. For those who have yet to enjoy Cintra's style, imagine Hunter S. Thompson on a date with E. Jean Carroll (okay, don't imagine it) overdosing on truth serum, nitrous oxide and a pint of raw ether. Or maybe not. In any case, buy this book. You won't regret it.
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