It’s not as if there isn’t plenty of warning. If you aren’t scared off by the title of Rachel Resnick’s first novel, Go West Young F*cked-Up Chick, there’s also the jacket copy, which describes the book as a “high-octane joyride through hell.” The plot centers on one Rebecca Roth (who perhaps not coincidentally shares the initials of her creator), a 25-ish Ivy League grad who has fled to L.A., “where depression is outlawed (or heavily medicated) and sex is superficial, flagrant, and mondo delicto.” She is, naturally, seeking to escape her past, which consisted mostly of Bad Shit with her parents, an alcoholic mother, now dead, and an out-of-the-picture father. In the series of vignettes that serve as chapters (sample heading: “Brutality of a Dead Bouquet”), Resnick jumps around in perspective and time, telling the disjointed tale of Rebecca’s distasteful encounters with men, her abortions, her jobs as a Hollywood slave. The narrative is littered with references to actual restaurants and stores and streets and famous people — and somehow it’s all remarkably dull.
Resnick does summon the occasional lovely phrase, but more often her prose is merely impenetrable, a jungle of alliteration and metaphor. Rebecca is fucked up when she arrives in L.A., and she is fucked up at the end of the book. Her lovers, her jobs, her agonies about escaping the fate of her mother — all intended to be highly symbolic — are completely interchangeable and poundingly obvious. Ultimately, Go West is a redundancy, a pastiche of every Is-that-smell-flowers-or-is-it-decay novel set in Los Angeles. Each of the book’s tragedies, from a child eaten by a rat to the Black Dahlia murder, is filtered through the prism of Rebecca’s own misery. “All I really want is some attention,” Rebecca wails. It’s a rare moment of honesty — and unfortunately has the ring of autobiographical truth.