Magazine article The New Yorker

[ Briefly Noted ]

Magazine article The New Yorker

[ Briefly Noted ]

Article excerpt

The Quality of Life Report, by Meghan Daum (Viking; $24.95). Daum brings a crisp, wisecracking voice to her novel about Lucinda, a life-style correspondent for a morning television show, who, in search of a more interesting life, leaves New York for Prairie City, a fictional Midwestern town. The "Report" of the title is a series of dispatches on life there which Lucinda pitches to her boss as " 'A Year in Provence' meets 'Lake Wobegon Days.' " (The boss observes that it's more like "Girl, Interrupted" meets "Deliverance.") Although the New Yorkers here are as predictable as the TV show's reports on bridal-registry etiquette, the people Lucinda meets in Prairie City become real characters, particularly the novel's love interest, a painter whose day job is in a grain elevator. Their relationship gives Lucinda more insight than she might have liked into the lives of some of the women in her adopted town, and leads the novel beyond cliches of city slickers and country bumpkins toward an admirably nuanced view of the American heartland.

Judge, by Dwight Allen (Algonquin; $23.95). Slight, dishevelled, almost totally without guile, eighty-two-year-old Judge William Dupree, of Louisville, departs this world leaving behind only the shimmer of his beneficence. His death leaves his family--his hypochondriac wife and his peripatetic sons--at a loss. Without the love that he steadily, but unobtrusively, supplied, his sons go haywire: the elder leaves his amiable wife for an aspiring ventriloquist, and the younger, a struggling writer, returns home, where he falls into the arms of his father's law clerk. Allen's preoccupation with ardor in all its forms brings Walker Percy to mind, and his lovely, elegiac book shows how easily even the most well-made life can unravel.

White Mughals, by William Dalrymple (Viking; $34.95). At the end of the eighteenth century, James Achilles Kirkpatrick, the promising young British Resident at the Shia court of Hyderabad, fell in love with Khair un-Nissa, an adolescent noblewoman and a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. …

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