Tried, True and Trite?

WALLER'S WAY:

November 03, 1993|By Jean Marbella

Just when your hankies finally dried out, here comes Robert James Waller again.

The author of the out-of-nowhere best seller "The Bridges of Madison County" is back in the tear-jerking business with his latest book, "Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend" (Warner, $16.95).

"Waltz" -- another angst-in-Iowa romance between a lanky, would-be cowboy and a repressed married woman -- no doubt will benefit from the phenomenal success of "Bridges." In fact, it's No. 2, second only to its predecessor, on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list for last week.

But how to tell them apart? It's easy to be confused, what with the nearly identical brooding, lone-eagle heroes, their long hair whipping in the breeze, their sudden soliloquies on commercialism and Darwinism, their hard thigh muscles pressing against their faded jeans. And the separated-at-birth heroines, with their long, black hair, their simmering sexuality, their dreary husbands who won't -- heavy symbolism alert -- let them smoke cigarettes.

Oh, sure, "Waltz" is less preciously crafted than "Bridges." Michael Tillman is less ascetic than his forerunner Robert Kincaid, and Jellie Braden is more absurdly named than the now familiar Francesca Johnson -- but at least Jellie gets to talk more. Still, given all the tan knapsacks characters keep flinging over their shoulders, all the hysterically tortured conversations over coffee and brandy, all that infernal yearning, it can be hard to tell one book from another.

So here's a look at how they differ . . . and how they don't.

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