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Metropolitan Book Picks

[whitespace] Reviews by Michelle Goldberg and Christa Palmer

Brain Storm
By Richard Dooling
Random House, 416 pp, $25

Writer and lawyer Richard Dooling's Brain Storm is an obvious choice for John Grisham fans. It's a dramatic legal thriller about a young attorney's struggle to maintain his marriage while consumed with a highly controversial murder case. Dooling raises issues concerning our legal system and the nature of man, from the death penalty and criminal trials to moral quandaries about sex, crime and religion. Not one modern issue falls through the cracks; the book covers just about everything from lawn care to the existence of the human soul. His prose is intense, saturated with technological and legal jargon, while the trendy dialogue offers very little relief. Perfect for the makings of a Blockbuster hit (film rights have been optioned), although reading the book is apt to be less predictable and more engaging. (CP)

For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health
By Jacob Sullum
Free Press, 338 pp, $25

Journalist Jacob Sullum, in For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health, makes his readers wonder about the freedom of anyone who dares to trade longevity for pleasure. Sullum sees the proposed tobacco legislation as a decisive infringement on the right to smoke and calls it "the public health movement" which seeks to regulate our pleasure and legislate our risk-taking down to the smallest details of what we ingest or enjoy. Sullum writes that public health used to mean regulating emissions, purifying water and imposing quarantines and vaccinations. But nowadays it means banning cigarette ads, raising alcohol taxes and making people buckle their seat belts. In short, Sullum argues that the aim of public health today is to protect us from enemies within, from ourselves and our failure to make right choices. (CP)

By Milan Kundera
HarperFlamingo, 168 pp, $23

In his new novel, Identity, Milan Kundera's trademark sardonic melancholia seems sadly forced, almost as if he were plagiarizing the wry desperation that made his earlier work so vital. It's the story of Chantal, a Paris advertising executive whose devoted younger lover worries that she feels old and unattractive. He stages a deception to make her feel desired, but it ends becoming subverted into a series of increasingly subtle, painful mind games. There are no fantastical aesthetic-political tangents in Identity, none of the intricate plotting that distinguished books like Immortality, Life is Elsewhere and, of course, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Like the latter book, Identity deals with the existential impossibility of ideal romantic love, but unlike the earlier novel, Identity has none of the rich, roiling socio-political backdrop that usually gives Kundera novels such sublime texture. (MG)

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From the June 1-14, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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