Award-winning performance artist and playwright Eric Bogosian's first novel, "Mall," was a roguishly stylish study of angst in an über-real commercial...

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“Wasted Beauty”

by Eric Bogosian

Simon & Schuster, 260 pp., $24

Award-winning performance artist and playwright Eric Bogosian’s first novel, “Mall,” was a roguishly stylish study of angst in an über-real commercial environment. His second novel, the highly sexually charged “Wasted Beauty,” addresses the burning question of whether a “middle-aged doctor and trophy babe” can find permanent happiness within the constraints of a suburban physician’s ennui-driven adultery and the narrow world of a fashion model.

Twenty-year-old Reba Cook and 45-year-old Dr. Rick seem made for each other. Both are bored with their lives. Reba lives with her misfit brother, Billy, on an apple orchard in upstate New York. On weekends, they drive to the city to sell their polished fruits to eager Manhattanites. The skinny, blond farm girl imagines a life that “could have gone anywhere” but sees it “going nowhere.”

That’s where Dr. Rick comes in. Seemingly content with his wife and their two children, he is inexorably sad and lonely. His low libido is fed with Viagra. He works at a SoHo clinic and desperately wants to break away from the life he’s created. His opportunity arrives when he encounters Billy and Reba.

A fashion photographer discovers Reba at a McDonald’s and quickly transforms her into the ultra-successful Rena. Soon her world is a heady swirl of the right designers, restaurants, travel spots, hotels, cars, liquor and drugs. Billy fares no better. Sex-addled and drug-dependent, he becomes a street person. Dr. Rick finds him in an ER and commits him to a mental hospital. When Rena arrives at Dr. Rick’s office, it’s “babe” meets “schmuck” and the beginning of a dangerous liaison.

Although Bogosian provides sufficiently gritty details of the subculture of glamour and the guilt-ridden anguish of listlessness, “Wasted Beauty” suffers from familiar contrasts. Country life is good; city life is bad; the suburbs is a purgatory of dulled souls. Ultimately, “Wasted Beauty” is a raunchy escapade in the vortex of vice and self-delusion.