Teetering between the here and the hereafter at Cedars-Sinai hospital, John Johnson has a vision. Nothing so banal as the old tunnel-and-light routine—as a top Hollywood producer, he can come up with something better than that! How about an angelic lovely with the smile of a Miss America and the attitude of a dominatrix, who encourages him to reappraise his life? Months later, John discovers that what he experienced wasn't really a vision at all but an image, absorbed from a bedside TV during his delirium, of one Susan Colgate—teen beauty queen turned sitcom star turned has-been.
Such blurring of the boundaries between our own thoughts and the ideas we inhale from the media is one of the central themes explored by Vancouver author Coupiand (Generation X) in this sardonically funny novel. Although the plot ostensibly revolves around star-crossed soulmates John and Susan, it functions best as a springboard for Coupiand to do what he does best—riff on American pop culture. In the end much of what he has to say about such biggies as love and celebrity isn't terribly new, but his inspired commentary along the way makes Miss a hit. (Pantheon, $23)