A STAR IS BORED
By Byron Lane
In the epigraph to “A Star Is Bored,” Byron Lane’s wildly funny and irreverent debut novel, the author embellishes a boilerplate disclaimer: “This is a work of fiction. … Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental, including names, places, weapons and sexual acts.” Lane was a personal assistant to the actress and writer Carrie Fisher, and her fictional doppelgänger in this novel is 56-year-old Kathi Kannon, who starred as Priestess Talara in the film “Nova Quest.” Kathi is mystifying, maddening and captivating, and her relationship with Charlie Besson, her 29-year-old assistant, is essentially a love story — except instead of the traditional Hollywood romance, it features two largehearted, misfit souls forming an unusual friendship.
When we meet Charlie, his “life feels like rot.” He loathes his job as a graveyard-shift writer for a TV news station, and he struggles with what his therapist labels “passive suicidal behavior” — self-destructive drinking, marijuana use and unsafe sex. He’s never been in a serious relationship, and he continues to mourn his mother, who died suddenly when he was 12. His hopes for his future rise when an acquaintance arranges the interview with Kathi, “heroine of film, television, maybe my life.”
When Charlie was a boy, his mother gave him a beloved Priestess Talara action figure, which his abusive, homophobic father took away. “He thought female action figures were the reason I ‘ran like a girl,’” Charlie says. His father terrorized him for being gay, and his father’s “masculine voice is still screaming at me, in my head … even while here, auditioning for a new role in Hollywood’s royal court.”
Their meeting calls to mind falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Nearly every sentence Kathi utters is darkly comic, even when she tries to remember Charlie’s name. He reminds her it starts with a “C,” and so she guesses — and lands on a lewd word for a type of penile jewelry that can’t be printed here. This becomes his sobriquet. (By the way, if penis jokes don’t make you crack a tiny smile, then it’s likely this novel isn’t for you.)