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Smooth Operator

Hold the phone.

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Bruce Wagner

Photo By Laura Peterson

NEW YORK — Next to an Oscar statuette, the cell phone might be Hollywood’s most important object, at least in the Hollywood according to novelist Bruce Wagner, whose so-called cell-phone trilogy — which includes “I’m Losing You” and “I’ll Let You Go” — concludes next month with the release of “Still Holding” (Simon & Schuster).

Wagner’s books aren’t necessarily about phones per se; they’re more about the loneliness of living in a world of surfeit and superficiality. “I’m compelled by the rawness of human emotions and the largeness of personalities and depravity that can occur in a town where the intersection between gods and paupers is so pronounced,” Wagner says, by phone, of course, from his Los Angeles home.

The novelist, who also wrote the miniseries “Wild Palms” in 1993 and has made two independent films out of different sections of “I’m Losing You,” feels the titles of his books, which certainly have a sense of humor, also convey an emotional weight. “I was talking to an old girlfriend on the phone and she said, ‘Well, I’ll let you go,’ and it was so heartbreaking because she was in a bad place when I talked to her. It’s one of those things you say when you feel worthless and that the other person’s time is so much more valuable than yours,” Wagner adds, before call-waiting beeps.

“Can you hold on one quick second?”

After a moment, he’s back.

“‘I’m Losing You’ is a title that can stand for many things: for a relationship, for a life. ‘I’ll Let You Go’ is a sort of acquiescence to that notion,” Wagner goes on. “And ‘Still Holding’ refers to this idea that we hold on to so much in the space of our own death to make it better. We hold on to our attachments.”

Wagner’s books aren’t all “unceasing darkness and cynicism and satire,” as he likes to say.

“I’m not a morose person by any means, and I think if someone would meet me and then read my books they would not put me together with the person who wrote those books. Not to start any rumors that I’m not the author of those books.”
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