YOU.Mary Higgins Clark.Simon & Schuster.317...


May 02, 1993|By SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE AMERICAN STAR. Jackie Collins. Simon & Schuster. 624 pages. $23. | SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE AMERICAN STAR. Jackie Collins. Simon & Schuster. 624 pages. $23.,LOS ANGELES TIMES


Mary Higgins Clark.

Simon & Schuster.

317 pages. $23.

Meghan Collins, news reporter for a New York TV station, is covering a story in a hospital emergency room when she receives the shock of her life. While waiting for news about the condition of a former senator, she observes a stabbing victim carried in on a stretcher. Meghan is horrified to see that the dead woman looks exactly like her.

Unfortunately for Meghan, that is only the first in a series of terrible revelations. She learns that her beloved father, presumed to be lost in an accident months before, may not be dead. He is suspected of murdering a prominent scientist at a fertility clinic.

Dr. Helene Petrovic had helped many infertile couples conceive, but an investigation after her death shows that she wasn't a doctor; her only training was as a cosmetologist. Who had recommended her to the clinic? Why, the executive search firm of Collins and Carter -- headed by Meghan's father.

Mary Higgins Clark's 10th novel is another page-turner with a strong, endearing heroine and plenty of surprises. The book's climax puts an ingenious twist on the suspense novel stand-by XTC that places the unsuspecting woman and the murderer together in a deserted locale. Ms. Clark's descriptions of the fertilization process are dry, but as a storyteller, she's first-rate. Maybe I'm grouchy about "American Star," Jackie Collins' latest trash-fest, because I was home with the flu while reading it. In fact, this is the perfect book for just such an occasion -- short chapters, few polysyllabic words, no complicated plot twists to tax a feverish mind.

It's the story of star-crossed lovers Nick Angel and Lauren Roberts. He's a brooding, rough, James-Dean-like newcomer from the wrong side of the tracks. She's the middle-class princess of a small-town high school (stop me if you've heard this before). Somehow, they get together, then break up, have adventures and tragedies, get together, break up -- for 600-plus pages.

It starts with this disclaimer: "While 'American Star' contains descriptions of unprotected sex appropriate to the period in which the story is set, the author wishes to emphasize the importance of practicing safe sex and the use of condoms."

I might have taken it more seriously if Ms. Collins had decided to make any of the bed-hopping characters face the consequences of promiscuity.





Willis Barnstone.

University of Illinois Press.

` 198 pages. $27.50.

Readers with only a passing acquaintance with the work of Jorge Luis Borges know he loved to play word games. Less well known is his willingness to speak with virtually any admirer, his fondness for long nighttime walks, and his modesty -- which, according to one editor, he wielded "like a club."

These are some of the insights into the writer provided by fellow poet Willis Barnstone, an American professor of comparative literature who was a friend and disciple for nearly two decades. Borges, as described in this book, seems a charming companion, but the same cannot be said of Barnstone. He's annoyingly obsequious about Borges, going so far as to say that almost every sentence Borges spoke should have "found itself on some page for the rest of us to savor."

There are high points, though, as when we learn (by inference more than Barnstone's analysis) how Borges' blindness affected his writing, and the origin of Borges' approach to the writing of verse. "Here in Argentina," he once told Barnstone, "no one reads poetry, so I'm free to do what I want."

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