• U.S.

Bookends: Dec. 7, 1987

4 minute read


by Calvin Trillin

Ticknor & Fields; 257 pages; $16.95

Let’s see. If you can’t say something nice, we’ll call you. No. If you can’t say something nice, carry a big stick. Worse. O.K., if you can’t say, etc.

You may have a future in the humor-column dodge, but don’t quit your job at the shoe factory till the check clears. Still interested? Try completing the column from this collection that begins “I’ve been wondering for a long time where all the chicken a la king went.” Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker writer and syndicated columnist (weekly in 200 newspapers), handed himself this chiller a couple of years ago. Clearly he had used up all his easy material about Ronald Reagan and how everyone hates mimes. He had to throw in every surefire giggle from Nehru jackets to the way rich people talk without opening their mouths, but in the end he made chicken a la king comical. And in this sparklingly crabby sequel to his previous collections of columns, Uncivil Liberties and With All Disrespect, he is also amusing about George Shultz, South Yemen and political mottoes (he favors “Never Been Indicted” for statesmen to whom it applies). Trillin, as the home folks say, is wired-up funny. Catch him before his insulation fries.


by Maureen Dean

Arbor House; 315 pages; $17.95

With impeccable grooming and a smile that Miss Americas sweat to learn, Maureen (“Mo”) Dean, wife of Watergate Star Witness John Dean, set the precedent for spousal demeanor at Senate hearings. She now capitalizes on her Washington years with a novel about politics and bedfellows. Dean writes about sex in the White House and sex on the presidential yacht. Her version of John Kennedy gives new meaning to the Bay of Pigs affair, as the randy Commander in Chief leaves his lover mad and languishing in a Swiss sanatorium. Elsewhere in this view of Washington below the Beltway, sex and statecraft are cranked up to date. “The real story at the heart of politics and male power was their wives and lady friends,” thinks Deena Simon, the gossip columnist with a nose for news but practically no nose. “Just ask Gary Hart.”

Oh, yes, the plot: the naked body of the President’s chief of staff is found in a bathtub at the Hay-Adams Hotel. Which soaped-up Washington wife was with him when he hit the porcelain, and whom will President Kane (Dean’s maiden name) appoint to replace him? Who cares? Fictional names and events are mixed up with the names of real people and actual events, and what comes out is slicker than lip gloss.


by Clive Barker

Poseidon; 584 pages; $18.95

“He makes the rest of us look like we’ve been asleep for the past ten years.” Stephen King’s encomium makes up in validity for what it lacks in grammar. Briton Clive Barker, 35, is indeed the new prince of horror, a sudden master of the genre in literature and cinema (Hellraiser). In his most ambitious and imaginative work, a prosaic Liverpool clerk named Calhoun Mooney falls into a magic carpet. He has entered the cursed and enchanted Weaveworld of the Seerkind, a people with the power to make magic — or to destroy humanity. Cal struggles for possession of the rug and, ultimately, for his soul. His enemies are the powerful virgin Immacolata and the evil Shadwell the Salesman; his sole ally is the mysterious Suzanna, granddaughter of the carpet’s dead caretaker. In lesser hands this could have been fey, but Barker puts in strands of Joyce, Poe, Tolkien and King himself, and emerges with the one ingredient that all good rugmakers and storytellers have in common: an irresistible yarn.


Rawson; 371 pages; $18.95

One way for divorced, widowed, relocated, single or lonely people to make gratifying friends and find new loves, insists Letitia Baldrige, is by volunteering for a local candidate’s campaign. The author should know; she was Jackie Kennedy’s White House social secretary and is now a best-selling expert ! on modern manners in a brusque and boorish age. Baldrige’s advice for getting on is both calculating and sensible: keep files of information on people you would like to get to know better; say no to drugs because they erode the quality of conversation. She blends new and old attitudes about the roles of the sexes: women may ask men out on dates, but kissing should be initiated by men. Teas, salons and cheek-to-cheek dancing are highly recommended. Baldrige’s advice to those who like their romance a bit more aerobic: don’t fall in love with someone you meet at a health club until you have seen him or her dressed.

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