SCRUPLES TWO.Judith Krantz.Crown.571 pages. $22. Let's get...

BOOK BRIEFS

July 05, 1992|By KASEY JONES MALCOLM X: AS THEY KNEW HIM. David Gallen. Carroll & Graf. 288 pages. $21.95. | KASEY JONES MALCOLM X: AS THEY KNEW HIM. David Gallen. Carroll & Graf. 288 pages. $21.95.,LOS ANGELES TIMES THE PLAGIARIST. Benjamin Cheever. Atheneum. 322 pages. $20.

SCRUPLES TWO.

Judith Krantz.

Crown.

571 pages. $22. Let's get right to it: The first good sex scene doesn't appeauntil well after 100 pages.

Was it worth the wait?

One might ask the same question of the entire novel. Written 14 years after "Scruples" was published, the book picks up exactly where the first book left off.

And this is a flaw; Judith Krantz must spend way too much space refreshing the reader's memory.

We pick up the story of Billy Ikehorn, filthy rich and beautiful, yet unable to find true happiness. She expands her empire from a single Scruples store to a vast chain worldwide. She acquires a stepdaughter, a starving-artist lover, a museum-sized mansion in Paris, and countless other hangers-on, friends, enemies and clothes.

Along the way, Billy suffers horrible tragedy (she even gains six pounds!); enjoys a magical but doomed love affair; leads a double life in Paris; gets sweet revenge on a former husband, and in general keeps busy.

Ms. Krantz is at her best evoking the world of Hollywood and the unbelievable rich. And despite the clumsiness of having to remind us of what went on 14 years ago, it's fun to continue the story that got me hooked on the trashy-novel genre.

"Scruples Two" is incredible fantasy, and the soap-opera story line makes it perfect summer reading. It's a must when you go downyocean.

Six weeks before his assassination in 1965, Malcolm X tol journalist Claude Lewis that he wanted to be remembered, above all, for his sincerity. Someone can be wrong, he said, "but if he's sincere you can put up with him. But you can't put up with a person who's right, if he's insincere."

The quotation doesn't jibe with the current perception of the former Malcolm Little, for he belongs more to myth than history; he's remembered today not for his sincerity, or the more moderate views he developed in his last year of life, but for his militancy, which included references to black superiority, the evil inherent in white "devils," and the virtual Uncle Tomism of Martin Luther King Jr. This book -- which consists of an introductory appreciation, transcripts of major interviews and previously published essays by Eldridge Cleaver, Alex Haley, James Baldwin and others -- is no threat to Malcolm X's classic "Autobiography," but it does show sides of the man that haven't come through so clearly elsewhere.

Malcolm X was by all accounts a spellbinding orator, for example, but he was also a wit, as another black discovered after insisting in the course of a debate that he was an American first and a black second, by virtue of his place of birth. Malcolm X smiled and replied, "Now, brother, if a cat has kittens in the oven, does that make them biscuits?"

"Your problem is compounded by the fact that your father i famous," Doctor Green tells Arthur Prentice. People, he explains, associate with you because they're interested in your father. That in itself isn't a problem as long as you know what's going on. But you're as confused as they are, he says.

Arthur Prentice is the protagonist of "The Plagiarist," the autobiographical first novel by Benjamin Cheever. The author is the son of one of America's most significant writers, John Cheever, who died in 1982. With the publication of his letters and journal -- both edited by his son -- John Cheever's life has been elevated to the level of myth. Benjamin Cheever's novel attempts to capitalize on that myth.

John Cheever once said that the best fiction is a metaphor for the creative process of life itself. So far, Benjamin Cheever's fiction looks at the life but manages none of the power of the metaphor.

DIANE SCHARPER

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