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[whitespace] All reviews by Christine Brenneman (CB) and Simone Stein (SS)

Robin Troy
Pocket Books/MTV, 257 pages, $12

Bestowed with the MTV Fiction award, Floating, the first novel from Harvard-educated Robin Troy, combines dusty Western fiction with the romance novel and comes up a bit short. Floating focuses on the life of young and gorgeous Ruby Pearson, who is stuck in Whitticker, Ariz., and desperate to get out. When her no-good husband gets thrown in jail, Ruby's left with her small son and an intensified feeling of desperation to escape her boring small-town existence. Enter Ruby's sexy brother-in-law--and it's easy to see where this story is headed. Troy occasionally lapses into Harlequin romance-style passages and clichéd dialogue, but she compensates for it with her descriptions of the desolate elegance and beauty of the West. (CB)

Generation Ecstasy
Simon Reynolds
Little, Brown & Company, 320 pages, $25

Simon Reynolds' fascinating, meticulously reported Generation Ecstasy covers a similar terrain as Iara Lee's Modulations, but it goes far deeper. Reynolds traces electronic music in all of its ever-mutating permutations, from Detroit techno and Chicago house through British hardcore, jungle, illbient and beyond, with forays into Holland and Germany. He's such an astounding writer that he makes language-defying music come alive. Unlike Lee, Reynolds delves into the role of drugs in rave and DJ culture, documenting the ways musical evolution has corresponded to drug trends. The book's only real flaw: Reynolds has the guilty middle-class tendency to try too hard to prove he's really down, which leads him to dismiss urban bohemian scenes in favor of suburban hardcore ones. (SS)

Staying Under
Carol Alma McPhee
Papier-Mâché Press, 224 pages, $22.95

Set in San Francisco and the towns surrounding it, Staying Under is sometimes quite moving, sometimes too Oprah-Book-Club earnest (the back pages of the book even suggests questions for book group discussions). As the novel begins, Maureen, a woman in her 60s, travels to the town where she grew up, hoping to be reunited with her high school best friend, Joann. Apparently, the two split after Maureen helped Joann procure an illegal abortion when they were teenagers, and Maureen never stopped regretting the end of their relationship. The book skips between past and present, and between Maureen's and Joann's voices, following the girls as children, teenagers and older women. Some of these perspective shifts are confusing, and the plot occasionally lags, but the girls' search for an abortionist is heart-poundingly compelling. (SS)

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From the October 5-18, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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