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Moon Unit Zappa's Beautiful America

Pity not the author whose claim to fame is being the child of a celebrity. With America the Beautiful, Moon Unit Zappa, stand-up comic and daughter of counterculture superstar Frank Zappa, comes into her own with a truly laugh-out-loud novel about the trials and tribulations of heartache, parental legacy and the luxurious Los Angeles lifestyle.

America Throne is thrilled with the way her life is going. Her artist-boyfriend Jasper is moving down from San Francisco, her voice-overs for "crotch cream" are going well, and domestic bliss is soon to be had. That is, until the fax appears. With a one-page blow to her ego, 30 year-old America is single again, and must embark on a self-help journey back to wholeness aided by her sexy friend Sadie and her flighty feng shui-obsessed mother, Camilla.

We all know breaking up is hard to do, but America is also contending with the recent loss of her father, Boris Throne, a "painter, writer, poet, political activist, renaissance man, genius." As she tries to refrain from leaving endless pleading messages on Jasper's voicemail and eventually starts to date an endless cycle of archetypal losers again, America must come to terms with her identity as child of fame who cannot figure out her career, making her "an utter failure by Los Angeles standards," and whose $2000/month family allowance may soon be drying up.

Although America the Beautiful is pointedly not a memoir, Zappa's comic genius lies in her ability to give the rest of us folks a behind-the-scenes look at what many would write off as a lucky break. America wonders if anyone could possible understand "how difficult it is to be hippie royalty and try to find your own identity in the shadow of a certifiable self-made 'genius.'" Talking with her new-age therapist, America says, "If I'm so anxious to give love away, why don't I just adopt a little crack baby? At least give it away to someone who deserves it. It's insane -- I'm healthy, educated, I can vote, I can wear whatever I like ... what kind of happiness can I really expect to have?"

Though you would love to hate America for such inanity, Zappa makes her much more than a stereotype. You just can't help for rooting for her to find the love that she wants so bad it hurts.

Endorsed by Alanis Morissette and Janeane Garafalo, jam-packed with music lyrics and featuring an acknowledgements page that reads like an A-list party guest list, America the Beautiful is a pop-culture fantasy with a lot of heart and soul behind the glitter.

America the Beautiful
by Moon Unit Zappa
Scribner; ISBN: 0743213831
Paperback - 302 pages (September 2001)

A regular contributor to SF Station's Literary Arts pages, Rosie Levy is a literary publicist who lives in Bernal Heights.

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