For years, painter Isabel Raven has made an almost-living forging Impressionist masterpieces to decorate the McMansions of the not-quite-Sotheby's-auction rich. But when she serendipitously hits on an idea that turns her into the "It Girl" of the L.A. art scene, her career takes off just as the rest of her life heads south. Her personal-chef boyfriend is having a wild sexual dalliance with the teenage self-styled "Latina Britney Spears." If Isabel refuses to participate in an excruciatingly humiliating ad campaign, her sociopathic art dealer is threatening to "gut her like an emu." And her reclusive physicist father has conclusively proven that the end of the world is just around the corner.
Now, with the Apocalypse looming—and with only a disaffected Dutch-Eskimo billionaire philanthropist and his dissolute thirteen-year-old adopted daughter to guide her—there's barely enough time remaining for Isabel to reexamine her fragile delusional existence . . . and the delusional reality of her schizophrenic native city.
About the Author
Jonathan Selwood grew up in Hollywood. He received an MFA from Columbia University and is married and lives in Portland, OR.
Read an Excerpt
The Pinball Theory of ApocalypseA Novel
By Jonathan Selwood
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Jonathan Selwood
All right reserved.
Just as I'm touching up the manic glint in Tom Cruise's eyes, another aftershock hits. I stumble back from the easel to try and keep from toppling over, but with the hardwood floor shifting violently in all three dimensions at once, it's like trying to cross a cobblestone street blind drunk in stiletto heels. Fortunately, a waist-high pile of old Celeb magazines breaks my fall.
The tremor ends just seconds after it starts, but a dry fog of lead paint dust continues to sift down from the ceiling. I wait a minute to make sure the ground isn't going to start moving again, then limp over to turn on the clock radio next to the futon couch. A male DJ's voice blares out in midstream.
" . . . is roughly equivalent to dropping a bowling ball off the Eiffel Tower. Please remember that phones should be used only in the case of an emergency, and not to call up the station and request the 'Earthquake Song' by the Little Girls. Let me also remind the two or three of you who haven't heard this before to refrain from firing up that crack pipe until you're absolutely positively sure you don't smell gas, to boil any tap water before drinking, and to slip on those Uggboots before strolling over the broken glass and shards of jagged metal that most likely carpet your floor. . . . In other disaster news, one of our deservedly unpaid interns managed to spill wheat grass juice in all three CD players, so I'll be dipping into the vinyl vaults as we wait with bated breath for the always riveting Cal Tech report. . . ."
X's "Los Angeles" starts crackling through the clock radio speaker. I turn up the volume, and take a minute to look around at the disaster that was once my apartment.
Dirty plates and cereal bowls are stacked everywhere, improvised ashtrays spill out over piles of old tabloid magazines, and layers of spattered paint cake the hardwood floor in a riot of clown colors. For the past two weeks I haven't seen my boyfriend, Javier, haven't checked the mail, haven't left the apartment for more than half an hour at a time. For the past week I've been too nauseated to eat anything but Trader Joe's pot stickers. And for the past three days I haven't changed out of my paint-spattered black T-shirt and jeans. All of this the result of my attempt to (in the words of my sociopathic art dealer Juan Dahlman) "launch my meteoric rise to fame."
Of course, in addition to the mess are the five new canvases that Dahlman plans to sell for a whopping fifty thousand dollars apiece come my opening Sunday afternoon (he claims Sunday afternoon is the new Thursday). Paintings I originally conceived as a satiric bayonet into the partially hydrogenated heart of contemporary society, but which my two-hundred-dollar-an-hour media training coach has reprogrammed me to call "transcendently kitschy."
Propped against my desk is Raphael's Madonna and Child with the original faces replaced by Britney Spears and her son Sean. Hanging over the futon is David's The Death of Marat featuring a turbaned and bloody Kurt Cobain in the bathtub. And on the easel itself is American Gothic redone with a smiling Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. As usual, the reproductions are technically flawless (with the exception, obviously, of the celebrity substitutions). I suppose if my new career as a sellout artist/media whore implodes, I can always move to Ibiza and become a professional forger.
The aftershock scattered my paintbrushes all over the floor, so I pick them up and carry them into the bathroom to clean. A new earthquake crack has appeared, running diagonally across the mildewed blue shower tile, but the two finished canvases I did with cobalt drier are still miraculously balanced on the towel rack. Placing the brushes in a coffee can on the soap dish ledge, I turn on the faucet. Rust-colored water spurts down into the basin, stops, then starts again with a shuddering of pipes, only to begin immediately pooling up from the paint-clogged drain. I shut the faucet back off, grab a bottle of "ecofriendly" drain cleaner from the ledge of the toilet, and pour the last of it in.
It takes a full minute of staring at the gaunt woman's face in the mirror above the sink for me to recognize it. My skin has drained from what I've always thought of as an SPF 15 pale to a tubercular pallor, my cheeks have sunken in painfully, and the dark circles under my eyes now match my black hair and T-shirt. Jesus, even my eyes themselves seem to be darkening.
The sink finally drains, and I'm about to begin cleaning the brushes, when there's a knock at the front door.
"Isabel? You in there? It's Chris," the superintendent calls from outside in the hall.
"Uh . . . yes." I head back into the living room and turn down the clock radio.
"You mind if I talk to you?"
"I'm kind of painting right now."
"No problem, I understand completely. I only wanted to tell you that I'll try and do something about the smell once they're finished with the structural tests."
Curiosity overwhelming creativity, I drop my brush back in the coffee can and walk over to the door, debating whether to open it.
"What structural tests?"
"Downstairs. You know, in the basement. They're checking the foundation."
I finally give in and tentatively open the door. Chris is in his late thirties, but suffers from an odd tapirlike downturn to his nose and face that emphasizes the severity of his receding hairline and makes him look far older. He's dressed in the usual blue jumpsuit and steel-toed Doc Martens work boots, but has an uncharacteristic cigarette sagging awkwardly out of the side of his mouth. Back in the '70s he was the child sidekick on a dreadful karate-themed TV show that, along with an . . .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Amazingly Good. You Should Buy. :) :) :)
Everyone loves a good laugh and there are tons of them in this uproarious story of artist Isabel Raven. Author Selwood gives new meaning to the word 'absurd.' You know that his characters are too far over the top to be real, yet you don't give a whit because they're so downright funny. You only keep flipping pages as fast as you can wondering what outrageous thing they'll say or do next. Set in Los Angeles we first meet Isabel as she's 'touching up the glint in Tom Cruise's eyes,' and the hardwood floor is shifting beneath her. One more tremor which we learn is a bit similar to dropping a bowling ball off the Eiffel Tower. Actually, her apartment was pretty much of a mess any way as Isabel has had no time for such homespun duties as cleaning or washing dishes. She has been anointed by her 'sociopathic art dealer,' Juan Dahlman as the next 'It Girl' artist with paintings that she had considered satiric going for fifty thousand a pop. After all, who could resist American Gothic redone with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes or Raphael's Madonna and Child with new faces - Britney Spears and her son Sean? In addition to an earthquake, an apartment building that may soon collapse, and her upcoming opening, there is boyfriend Javier, handsome beyond belief and recently botoxed just around the eyes. During Isabel's rise to fame she meets an eccentric billionaire philanthropist who has bought some of her paintings for his teenage daughter. She also discovers that Javier has been more than unfaithful, and that her father has definitely pinpointed the end of the world. The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse is too funny to be believed and way too funny to put down. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
In Los Angeles artist Isabel Raven copies Impressionist masterpieces for wealthy patrons who cannot afford the originals. However, local art dealer to uniformed and misinformed Dahlman thinks her twists of combining the classics with modern day images and symbols can make them money. So he promotes her work as the next great wave while display photos of her on the Net that she would prefer remain personal she becomes an artsy in thing as the 'It Girl'. However, on the down side Dahlman threatens to carve her up if she fails to sign an agent¿s agreement with him. --- Dahlman¿s emu evisceration threat and her boyfriend¿s cheating on her seem minor when Isabel considers her physicist string theory father¿s scientific conclusion involving Jupiter melting Pluto or is that Uranus or some other planetary giant as belch regardless the solar system is counting down to tilt with the apocalypse coming soon. --- THE PINBALL THEORY OF APOCALYPSE is an amusing zany satirical frolic that takes no prisoners as Jonathan Selwood skewers the Hollywood world in which promotion, advertisement, and spin is more critical to success than talent. Readers will appreciate the combining of art and science as Raven knows she must make it by October 9, 2049 while having to choose between Dahlman¿s phony campaign and being herself even if that means modernized rip-offs of the greats. This is a terrific mocking of the American way to fame and fortune as it is not how good the item is, nor how hard you work on the product, or what you produce it is the sell. --- Harriet Klausner