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[whitespace] All reviews by Michelle Goldberg (MG) and Michael Stabile (MS)

book cover Shy Girl
By Elizabeth Stark
Farrar Straus & Giroux; 215 pages, $22

While she lays claim to the San Francisco style of life narrativized in Tales of the City, Elizabeth Stark's ambiguous first novel, Shy Girl, is a decidedly less fantastical, if more accurate, tale of modern lesbian love. Rather than the intertwining characters of Armistead Maupin's chronicle, we are plunged into a melodramatic soap opera fit to be aired on public access television. Alta, a butch tattoist, is forced to confront her past when her first love reappears--pregnant. Emotions run high, friends invite her to Shabbat, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence dot the scenery like rainbow flags and, of course, secrets are revealed. Not to mention that on page 130, you are rewarded with hot grrrl-on-girl action that smells of vanilla and tastes of cloves and sweat. (MS)

book cover Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime
By Diane Leslie
Simon & Schuster; 320 pages; $23

I've always resented the fact that my childhood wasn't anything like the Fleur de Leigh's, the enchanting child narrator of Diane Leslie's autobiographical first novel. Like the famed Eloise, Fleur is the daughter of rich and glamorous parents who are largely absent. Instead, she's raised by a series of nannies, domestic help and house guests. The wry, airy tone that Leslie uses to recount Fleur's foibles is a wonderful counterpoint to the real darkness that underlies them. Her parents are true monsters of egomaniacal Hollywood self-absorption, but the book is all the more poignant for skirting any Mommy Dearest-style whining. (MG)

book cover Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
By David Foster Wallace
Little Brown & Company; 320 pages; $24

Throughout Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, one senses Wallace struggling with a smirking cynicism that he himself has said is a dead-end in fiction. In many ways, the concerns of the book are the same as those of his fantastic The Infinite Jest. Wallace's characters are mired in solipsistic therapeutic clichés, narcissism that borders on misanthropy and awkward, often poisoned familial relationships. In "The Depressed Person," a morbidly self-obsessed woman repeatedly calls old roommates she hasn't seen in years to pour out all her misery, self-loathing and self-pity. Though the story, like much of the book as a whole, is a funny and penetrating dissection of self-help culture, one wishes for some wry compassion to balance the mockery. (MG)

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From the May 24, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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