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

book cover At Home With the Marquis de Sade: A Life
By Francine du Plessix Gray
Simon & Schuster, 424 pages, $25

By turns fascinating, repulsive and titillating, Francine du Plessix Gray's new biography of the Marquis de Sade delves once more into the life of history's most narcissistic libertine. Surprisingly, du Plessix's Gray's account of Sade's misadventures and debauchery remains shocking even by today's jaded standards. The author's contribution to the study of Sade is her unique reading of his infamous life, particularly her acknowledgment of the enormous role of Sade's wife and mother-in-law on the course of his fate. Few may know that his mother-in-law wielded enough power and influence to nearly single-handedly keep him imprisoned for 13 years. As for his wife, her dogged loyalty and unending reservoirs of forgiveness come across as both sweet and pathologically obsessed. (CB)

book cover The Higher Jazz
By Edmund Wilson
University of Iowa Press, 224 pages, $17.95

Edmund Wilson's posthumously resurrected novel The Higher Jazz is interesting less as fiction than as social history. Made up of a series of vignettes from the marriage of a snobbish music lover, Fritz Dietrich, and his pretty, kind but philistine wife, Caroline, The Higher Jazz is a kind of roman à clef of Manhattan intellectual life in the late '20s. The best scenes take place in burlesque houses and nightclubs, which are juxtaposed with pretentious highbrow music recitals. The most compelling character is Kay Burke, an almost wholly undisguised portrait of Dorothy Parker. Burke is both a brilliant wit and an insecure neurotic, and Wilson renders her with a sympathy that never devolves into condescension. (MG)

book cover October Revolution
By Tom Lamarr
University Press of Colorado, 201 pages, $19.95

October Revolution is a light romp of a book that explores the identity issues of a leftover '70s revolutionary. The cynical hero of the story is hermit Rod Huxley, a once popular anarchist author who has distanced himself from a world that no longer jibes with his paradigm. A hostage situation in Washington, D.C., forces Huxley out of hiding; apparently the terrorist will only negotiate with the revolutionary author. Considering that this is Tom Lamarr's first novel, he weaves his tale of Huxley's crisis of self and subsequent revelations with expertise and, along the way, provides the reader with enough adventurous humor and silly plot twists to keep October Revolution consistently interesting. (CB)

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From the December 21, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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