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

book cover Model Behavior
By Jay McInerney
Random House, 277 pages, $24

Model Behavior is essentially Bright Lights, Big City retold for the '90s. The story is the same--a magazine hack with literary pretensions gets dumped by his model girlfriend and grows increasingly intoxicated and desperate. But since this isn't the '80s anymore, the hero's vice is cocktails, not cocaine, and the tone of Model Behavior is much more rueful, subdued and unimpressed than that of Bright Lights, Big City. In the '80s, McInerney was largely written off as a member of a trendy and vapid clique of writers that included Tama Janowitz and the execrable Bret Easton Ellis. But Model Behavior is a reminder that McInerney is a very acute and funny social critic. The book also includes six short stories, the best of which, "Con Doctor," is about a doctor who gets out of rehab and takes a job in a maximum-security prison. (SS)

book cover By the Light of My Father's Smile
By Alice Walker
Random House, 222 pages, $22.95)

Alice Walker's newest novel, By the Light of My Father's Smile, is very much like her past novels. It exposes the annihilation of women's sexuality and flows from one narrative voice to another. Following the lives of two daughters raised by an alternately cruel and caring father, Walker effectively weaves back and forth between the experiences and locales of the past and present--and between the natural and spirit world. Walker emphasizes the role of the father as central to a daughter's healthy sexual development and the role of sexuality in achieving spiritual maturity. The intensity of the love scenes will leave the reader breathless, and once again Walker captures intimacy between characters with her signature poetic prose. (CB)

Leaving Earth
By Helen Humphreys
Metropolitan Books, 242 pages, $22

This hypnotic, slightly hallucinatory novel takes awhile to fall into, but once you do, it's entrancing. Set in the depths of the Depression, Leaving Earth follows a pair of Canadian aviatrixes as they attempt to spend a record 25 days in the air in an open-cockpit biplane. Grace O'Gorman is a glamorous, famous pilot, while Willa Briggs is a shy 23-year-old who's in awe of Grace. Most of the novel takes place while they're in the air, unable to speak except in notes and sign language because of the sound of the wind. Helen Humphreys conveys a sense of how space and time start to dissolve after so many days in the sky, how the earth and its problems seem increasingly remote. Meanwhile, Humphreys tells the parallel story of Maddy, a young tomboy from a half-Jewish circus family who worships Grace and longs to fly away from the poverty and anti-Semitism of life on the ground. (SS)

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From the November 16-29, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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