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Picks by Elizabeth Costello and Cory Feldman

Slapboxing With Jesus

Slapboxing With Jesus
By Victor D. Lavalle
Vintage Contemporaries, $11, 213 pages

Often when I hear a book described as possessing a "gritty realism" I translate that to mean "empty writing with shock value." Victor D. Lavalle's debut collection manages, for the most part, to avoid falling into the second category, while maintaining a certain element of the first. Set predominantly amid the cacophony of cultures in Queens, New York, these linked stories look with fresh eyes at the American idea of plurality. The narrator of most of the stories is Anthony, the son of a Ugandan woman and a American white man, who runs away to become a cop in Connecticut. Some of the stories--such as "ghost story" and "who we did worship"--reveal a poetic prose style that echoes Ellison, with the odd dash of Ginsberg on the side. All of them have a stylistic something that may one day be recognized as Lavalle. (EC)

Your Action World

Your Action World
By David Byrne
Chronicle Books, $29.95

In his latest book, Your Action World: Winners Are Losers, With a New Attitude, David Byrne critiques modern commercialism--touching on how advertisers co-opt logos, colors and develop marketing strategies--the commentary presented in large, colorful images, similar to Benetton's Colors magazine. His satiric take on advertising, corporate culture and consumerism is packaged in a bright yellow plastic book cover. Inside is Byrne's walk through the modern man's values and vices. Hypodermic needles float over a tropical paradise, cocaine "bullets" and roach clips are superimposed on mountain views, a gesture combining familiarity and shock. The height of humor is reached with a comic strip using bubble quotes to stuff the mouths of "business professionals" with feel-good clichés or elderly people from a life insurance advertisement smiling rap lyrics through their dentures. David Byrne moves into the compromises made with his moral multiple-choice quiz, challenging the reader to choose between business and friendship, family and humanity. Brighter than the average coffee-table book, Byrne's tome delivers his message with cynicism, parody and wit. (CF)

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From the November 8, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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