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[whitespace] Picks by Christine Brenneman (CB) and Michael Stabile (MS)

The View From Babylon The View From Babylon: The Notes of a Hollywood Voyeur
By Donald Rawley
Warner Books, $23, 204 pages


Donald Rawley's collection of observations posits Southern California as the late-'90s counterpoint to Bruce Springsteen's '70s Jersey: a wasteland where the residents constantly struggle with both the need to leave and their emotional and financial inability to do so; a place where the only thing stopping you from jumping off a building is the motley assortment cheering you on from the sidewalk. Sometimes overwrought but often funny, Rawley's chapters span methamphetamine deaths in the Antelope Valley and Tippi Hedren's Shambala lion preserve with equal grace and wit. And as much as one might take Rawley's musings as sad reflections on a decaying culture, it would be a mistake to miss his hidden affection for Los Angeles: a place where dreams are possible, if often squashed; a land of steroids and suicide, Oscar nights and lunch at the Polo Lounge. Rawley winds through these disparate cities and bungalows with all the ease of the Los Angeles River. (MS)


The Interpreter of Maladies
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Houghton Mifflin, $12, 198 pages


Like a casual conversation that slowly turns deep and meaningful, The Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri's debut collection of short stories, creeps up on the reader, creating a world full of her wise perspective. Recently published in The New Yorker's "Future of American Fiction" issue, Lahiri possesses the kind of strong and knowing voice that often eludes young writers. Her stories focus on the disorienting adjustment to life in America as experienced by Indian immigrants. In "The Third and Final Continent," Lahiri describes in flowing, lyrical prose a young man's journey from lost and overwhelmed Boston newcomer to a well-established middle-aged man whose arranged marriage somehow worked out happily. The struggle to balance two cultures and curiosity about the American way of life are central to these tales. (CB)


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From the August 2, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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