Speed Reading

Putting the XO in Botox: Go Fug Yourself Presents the Fug Awards and Beautiful Children
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GO FUG YOURSELF PRESENTS THE FUG AWARDS

By Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Simon Spotlight Entertainment

268 pages

$29.95

Dear Diary: I wanted to like Go Fug Yourself Presents the Fug Awards. Really, I did. Partly because this tome by GoFugYourself.com creators Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan feels like a miss-guided tour through the mind of the cattiest, most clothes-obsessed cheerleader — one who spells Kanye, K-a-y-n-e and admits she's too lazy to check the exact origins of the It Girl phenom. (Er, try Clara Bow of the 1927 silent film It.)

From its opening salvos at Inexplicable Style Icons (well, Vogue and all of Vogue's tatty offspring differ when it comes to Chloë Sevigny and Sienna Miller), to its truly startling images of a death-rattled Marc Anthony and a radical-plastic-surgery-disaster Kenny Rogers, Fug Awards is the book equivalent of the meanest girl in high school. You kind of, sort of, want to pal around with her, if only to protect yourself from the harsh glare of judgment. Alas, instead of nasty kicks, what it offers is unfunny and even tedious — like an awards ceremony, it fluffs its pseudo-pomp with overly lengthy intros and kaboodles of glossy red carpet snaps. Fug Awards only inspires you to dress in the most conservative yet "classic" garb, accessorized with a sorry case of the fashion blahs.

True, the orange-hued aesthetics that inspire the Tanorexics Awards are startling in these melanoma-riddled times — occasionally there's a logic to Cocks' and Morgan's middle-of-the-road rage. But does Cate Blanchett deserve to be in here simply for trying out an unconventional ensemble by a chance-taking designer? Must one wear a gown to a car promotional event?

Oh, Diary, such a long, lukewarm sip of haterade makes one wonder: why try anything sartorially daring or new and be subjected to a similar clawing, courtesy of your neighborhood Fug-in-training? XOXO (Kimberly Chun)

BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN

By Charles Bock

Random House

417 pages

$25

The notion that Las Vegas is a playground for complete id-indulgence certainly holds resonance for tourists. But what is the city like for folks who work and live there? Charles Bock's debut novel Beautiful Children strips away the city's glittering veneer to reveal a degraded core. At the epicenter of Bock's troubled Las Vegas landscape sits 12-year-old Newell Ewing, a coddled, almost joyless boy — comic books are his chief source of comfort — who disappears from his affluent suburban home. Newell's alienated parents, Lincoln and Lorraine, each embark on a distressing solitary journey to find out what has happened.

Beautiful Children is also populated with runaways and street kids. Aside from one notable exception, these characters appear trapped underneath the weight of unfulfilled expectations. Their friends, family, and acquaintances — pawn shop dealers, gambling addicts, exploited sex workers — expand the tangle of disillusionment. The result is a modern counterpart to the alienated Los Angeles cityscape of Nathanael West's classic 1939 snuffed-dream chronicle The Day Of The Locust.

Beautiful Children has been on the receiving end of more than a few "cinematic" compliments. Bock crafts an ambitious pull-back-the-curtains epic reminiscent of the early work of filmmaker P.T. Anderson. Occasionally the author appears overly aware of his novel's filmic qualities, resulting in heavy-handed dialogue. Still, he portrays the underbelly of Las Vegas with precise detail. What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. Instead, Bock argues, what happens in Vegas is actually happening everywhere.