the plot of the story revolves around mechanic, who lives in IN. one day he decides that there is something missing in his life, that he is somewhat more than the mechanic who fixes cars, and so he begins to create art with the vechiles bought in for him to fix. it's an art most people don't care for. however, he meets photographer, who used to be a film maker, and the two of them strike up a relationship, and he is introduced to composer, who composes music for the sheet of paper and not to be played, and poet (sculpter) who makes her art with dirt and doesn't speak. they all live in IN, which is the blue collar side of their world, where mechanic and poet (sculpter) were born, but where composer and photographer are simply slumming it, trying, in what is one of the more regretable sections of the book, to get in touch with the people by living with the 'real' blue collar folk and making art no one wants.
one night, while showing composers music, the four meet designer, who lives in OZ, and designs cars. perfectly scrubbed and made and with designer clothes and a designer apartment, she begins to break up the little group as mechanic falls for her. he sees a kindred spirit, and it doesn't take much of genius to figure out how this is going to work out for our poor mechanic.
IN & OZ is not a novel that is plot or character driven. it's a parable, designed to bring out tomasula's observations on consumerism and art, which are in constant conflict through the narrative. is an artistis true vision a consumerable item? is it possible for a mass marketed product to be art? tomasula will eventually, thought the narrative, offer both conclusions, as well as having one character say "I just can't say which is right any more" where once he could.
it is, at all times, an interesting book, well written, but not one i found myself agreeing with totally. this isn't a problem--in fact, i'm hoping to dump it on a few friends to see what they reckon. for example, i found the whole slumming of photographer and composer to be really quite insulting (though tomasula never presents it as slumming), and i had troubles with the fact that mechanic could never get beyond the toll both of OZ, so that the reader only saw that part of the city through designer's eyes, and which often gave the impression of OZ being artificial, and shallow. none of the characters, for example, sit up and say, "it's more real here. IN is real." but it skirted the whole depiction of IN. such a depiction is a bit simplistic, and a bit niave... well, actually quite simplistic and niave, from my point of view.
but this is a subtext in the book, and there are many other interesting moments raised. IN & OZ isn't the kind of book that you're meant to quietly digest and not think about, but rather one to disagree with, to talk about, and that it does well and in an entertaining way. is it art, however? well, i wouldn't say so, but i'm sure someone else will answer differently.