Title: "Lovers"Author: Judith KrantzPublisher...

BOOK BRIEFS

May 08, 1994|By KASEY JONES Title: "The End of Vandalism" Author: Tom Drury Publisher: Seymour Lawrence/Houghton Mifflin Length, price: 321 pages, $21.95 | KASEY JONES Title: "The End of Vandalism" Author: Tom Drury Publisher: Seymour Lawrence/Houghton Mifflin Length, price: 321 pages, $21.95,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Title: "Lovers"

Author: Judith Krantz

Publisher: Crown

Length, price: 470 pages, $23 This tome continues the saga started with "Scruples." It is mostly the story of Gigi Orsini, stepdaughter of "Scruples" protagonist Billy Winthrop. Gigi, who was 16 in "Scruples Two," is now in her 20s and starting a job with a small advertising agency.

"Lovers" is set in 1983, the go-go time of leveraged buyouts, junk bonds, Trump Tower and conspicuous consumption. The characters are the richest of the rich, and we get a peek into lives most of us will never come close to. This, and the sex scenes, are the attractions of the Krantz brand of trashy novel.

I was pleased to see that this volume focuses less on really terrible sorrows, usually involving horrible deaths, and instead focuses on the maddening relationships of jobs and families. But these relationships are a little too narrowly drawn for my taste:

Gigi is engaged to, but then breaks up with, Zach, who is the brother of her best friend, Sasha. Gigi then dates her stepmother's cousin, Ben. Meanwhile, her stepmother, Billy, has married Spider, her late best friend's husband. Billy's lawyer, Josh, who had an affair with Billy's best friend, Valentine, marries and then divorces Sasha, who then takes up with Gigi's father, Vito.

E9 These people, rich as they are, need to get out more. "The End of Vandalism," Tom Drury's first novel, refers to a dance put on by the junior class of Morrisville-Wylie High School. The sponsors of the dance propose to raise money to stop vandalism. One of the story's three important characters, Sheriff Dan Norman, is invited to chaperon. Another central character, Tiny Darling -- drunkard, ne'er-do-well and small-time thief -- smashes the vandalism display. Because of this, Louise Montrose Darling, the third important character and a photographer who is married to Tiny, meets and falls in love with Dan.

The plot -- a love triangle -- describes the breakup of Tiny and Louise's relationship and the getting together of Dan and Louise. A subplot describes the relationship between Tiny and Joan Gower, Bible saleswoman, itinerant preacher and volunteer at St. Francis Animal Shelter.

The book, first excerpted in the New Yorker, is a cross between "The Andy Griffith Show" and something by Garrison Keillor. Set in a small town in the Midwest, it contains 71 characters, all of whom are eccentrics. Mr. Drury, describing one of them, explains: "They need to travel the lonely highways of monotonous states and almost seem to have been hired by the tourism department to enliven the traveller's experience." Their stories, he goes on, although colorful, don't demand much attention. Saying this, he could be describing his own story.

DIANE SCHARPER

Title: "Playboy Stories: The Best of Forty Years of Short Fiction"

Editor: Alice K. Turner

Publisher: Dutton

Length, price: 609 pages, $24.95

Now's your chance to atone for all those lies about buying Playboy for the stories. And painless penance it is: Here is some of the sweetest, sharpest prose between covers, one piece for every Playboy year, and not what you may have expected.

Nadine Gordimer is represented, and Shirley Jackson -- with a brilliant, scathing account of literary raptors at an author's deathbed. Ursula Le Guin recounts a revolutionary day in an East European capital when the paving stones turned to rubies, and Laurie Colwin, who died too young, bequeathes a grumpy, irritable mistress with a humor dry as a well-built martini. There's Baldwin and Nabokov; Garcia Marquez, Oates and Roth; Murakami, Singer, Shaw, Cheever, Dahl, Borges and the great, rolling Irish prose of Sean O'Faolain that begs to be read aloud.

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