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The Diviners    by Rick Moody order for
by Rick Moody
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Vanessa Meandro heads Means of Production, an independent film company. A woman with many psychological issues, not the least of which is an extreme weight problem, she nevertheless has no patience with the emotions or needs of anyone around her, especially not her associates. And what a group of associates it is. From an Indian cabdriver who gets hired on to provide 'TV Watching Knowledge', to the harried, young black assistant who punctuates her thoughts often with the words 'black assistant' and who is writing a novel, these people are not your ordinary crew.

There are many weird people around Vanessa, including a bipolar bike messenger who is an authentic artist in a world of charlatans, Vanessa's delusional and alcoholic mother, a violin virtuoso who never plays the violin, and really, just too many characters to list. The main thread tying all these people together is a script entitled 'The Diviners', a historical saga about diviners (people who use dousing rods to find water) through the ages, from ancient Mongolia to the land of the Mormons today. The only problem with the script is that it doesn't actually exist. But since when has reality ever meant anything in the film world?

The story begins with two Means of Production associates trying to figure out how to recover from losing a script that Vanessa wanted her assistant to read. The assistant and an actor concoct an elaborate tale about diviners, and present this story to Vanessa as the script. Soon, the Diviners takes on a life of its own, although the actual physical script never arrives on Vanessa's desk. Everyone who is anyone in town is talking about this fabulous script that the film company has scooped. Meanwhile, more and more people become involved with the project, and it is their personal stories and their ultimate connections to the virtual script that drive the story.

This book is absolutely hysterical. The descriptions of these people are just too funny, and their antics are side-splitting. Even though many characters have some pathos in their lives, and several events have dark elements that will make readers cringe, the overall effect is humorous. Similar in scope and format to the movie Pulp Fiction (but much gentler, kinder and funnier), this novel absolutely skewers the world of television show personalities. I highly recommend The Diviners to anyone who enjoys an intelligent comedy about current social oddities, and doesn't mind an occasional rawness.

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