OWN.Jim Lehrer.Putnam.` 270 pages. $22.95.The...

A BUS OF MY

November 08, 1992|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK SWEET LIAR. Jude Deveraux. Pocket Books. 380 pages. $22. | J. WYNN ROUSUCK SWEET LIAR. Jude Deveraux. Pocket Books. 380 pages. $22.,LOS ANGELES TIMES

A BUS OF MY OWN.

Jim Lehrer.

Putnam.

` 270 pages. $22.95.

The most surprising aspect of Jim Lehrer's memoir, "A Bus of My Own," is how much the author sounds like the One-Eyed Mack. A word of explanation for those who know the author only as co-anchor of PBS' "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour": Mack, a fictitious, aw-shucks Oklahoma lieutenant governor, is the hero of a series of novels by Mr. Lehrer.

Admittedly, it's not uncommon for characters to speak with their author's voice. But viewers accustomed to seeing Mr. Lehrer interview heads of state -- or moderate presidential debates -- probably assume he possesses a little more sophistication than his just-a-country-boy protagonist. And, "A Bus of My Own" reassures us that the sophistication is there, particularly when it comes to an understanding of journalistic responsibility. However, the book also demonstrates the degree to which Mr. Lehrer shares Mack's sense of boyish wonder. It may even convince you that boyish wonder is one of the best credentials for a journalist.

This wide-eyed quality shows up when Mr. Lehrer discusses his passion for buses and bus paraphernalia; it appears again when he writes about being unexpectedly sidelined by a heart attack in 1983; and most of all, it's there when he expounds on his zest for life and the importance of doing the things you love most. Fortunately, writing books like this is one of those things.

@ Attempting to pick up the pieces after a bad marriage, Samantha Elliot moves to Louisville to live with her father, Dave. But his death sets off a series of events that will change Sam forever. The will stipulates that Sam spend one year in New York looking for her grandmother, who walked out on Dave when he was very young.

Dave had a theory: She became a moll of a notorious gangster. To ensure that Sam follows his wishes, Dave sold his house and rented Sam an apartment in New York. The landlord, Michael Taggart, is not only the most beautiful man Sam has ever seen but also an author researching a book on the gangster.

The problem with Jude Deveraux's latest novel, "Sweet Liar," begins early. What does it matter to Dave if the answer is found after his death? Hadn't he ever heard of private investigators? But there are so many other difficulties with "Sweet Liar" that even the absurd premise doesn't matter. This is a completely contrived work filled with synthetic characters and silly situations, and the ending is telegraphed far in advance. An example: The relationship between Michael and Sam has a rocky beginning. Any guesses as to its outcome?

EILEEN POWER

THE JOURNEY

OF IBN FATTOUMA.

Naguib Mahfouz; translated

from the Egyptian

by Denys Johnson-Davies.

Doubleday.

60 pages. $20.

The publisher of this short novel by the Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, has good reason to note that the book was first published in Arabic in 1983; without that knowledge, the reader might be tempted to see "The Journey of Ibn Fattouma" as a parable inspired by Salman Rushdie's life on the run.

Ibn Fattouma, Mr. Mahfouz's narrator, is nothing like Mr. Rushdie in terms of personality, but he is a devout Muslim who becomes a perpetual traveler after his fiancee is appropriated by a powerful politician; disappointed by his own culture, Ibn Fattouma journeys to see his country "in the light of other lands, ++ that I might perhaps be able to say something of benefit to it." He visits five countries with as many political systems, and each turns out to be both less and more than it initially appears. Ibn Fattouma is essentially a latter-day Gulliver, but Mr. Mahfouz is interested in teaching, not satire, with "The Journey of Ibn Fattouma" becoming something of a morality play extolling the virtues of tolerance and understanding.

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