Pool

Ajay Sahgal's startling debut novel is as conceptually tight and brutally realized an indictment of the culture of Hollywood as we've had in years. Sahgal borrows from the world he satirizes to make Pool part novel, part screenplay - and wickedly, despairingly funny: Think Day of the Locust for Generation X. Emery Roberts is a GQ coverboy and twentysomething movie star who has just walked off the set of a $40 million picture, mega-producer Monty Factor's new buddy-cop thriller, Sun City. Via MGM Grand Air, Emery flees to the lush hills of Vermont to join a group of self-exiled Hollywood refugees who have taken up residence in an old farmhouse. But his flight is futile: Factor soon mounts a nationwide search to recover his missing property, and in a local bar young townie girls fawn abjectly. Back at the farmhouse the faces are all too familiar: his producer's beautiful, alcoholic daughter, a recently fired C.A.A. agent, and a U.S.C. film student who is there to document Emery's breakdown. As if nature itself has gone awry, the nearby lake is infested with snapping turtles, moving one outraged casualty of the industry to begin constructing that essential Hollywood real estate accessory, a backyard pool. Larger than life on the screen, in person Emery is a void. And yet as the novel progresses from one hilariously cruel scene to the next, we see that this isn't simply a pose, but the only way he can protect himself from the valueless landscape and the emptiness of celebrity.