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[whitespace] All reviews by Christine Brenneman (CB) and Michelle Goldberg (MG)

Basquiat: A Quick Killing In Art
By Phoebe Hoban
Viking, 344 pages, $29.95

Phoebe Hoban's Basquiat chronicles the short, troubled life of painter and '80s art star Jean-Michel Basquiat. Although there seem to be conflicting accounts of many details of his life, Hoban manages to convey Basquiat as a childlike and charismatic individual. His dreads and often disheveled appearance made him an unlikely character in the chi-chi NYC art world, but for a brief time he was the toast of the town. Hoban follows Basquiat through his notorious series of broken relationships with lovers, art dealers and friends. Even in death, Basquiat is an intriguing presence and a figure that still commands our attention. (CB)

Half and Half
Edited by Claudine Chiawei O'Hearn
Pantheon, 272 pages, $25

More than just another entry into the identity-politics memoir maelstrom, Half and Half, an anthology of essays by some of America's best young writers about growing up biracial and bicultural, is fierce and funny. Danzy Senna, whose debut novel, Caucasia, was one of the most exciting books of the year, gently mocks other multiracial reminiscences in her hysterical piece, "Mulatto Millennium." Other essays, by authors like Julia Alvarez and Francisco Goldman, combine the earnest and irreverent. The writers' searchings may be culturally specific--as in Roxane Farmanfarmaian's mediation on growing up half Mormon, half Muslim--but the sense of identity crisis is something every confused young urbanite will relate to. (MG)

Show World
By Wilton Barnhardt
St. Martin's Press, 341 pages, $24.95

Like its heroine, Wilton Barnhardt's alternately frustrating and fascinating Show World starts off smart and compelling and then deteriorates into a boozy, unfocused mess. Show World is the story of Samantha Flint, the daughter of Missouri white trash who's eager to join the ranks of the urban bourgeois at an elite women's college. She's befriended by the sophisticated Mimi Mohr, a New York Jew determined to make it in the art world. The book follows them into middle age, growing bleak as Samantha sells out her dreams while Mimi flourishes but loses her soul in Hollywood. Even if Show World's tone devolves from wry sympathy into dark comedy, the drug orgies and perversity that make up the last fourth of the book keep the pages turning. (MG)

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From the September 21-October 4, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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