Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Home Land, by Sam Lipsyte (Picador; $13). The hero of this comic novel, Lewis Miner, a.k.a. Teabag, was a high-school stoner, and now makes it his mission to write extremely candid letters to the alumni newsletter. His life, as he writes, "did not pan out." He works as a dishwasher in his father's cheesy catering business and spends his free time moping with his friend Gary, who sued his parents for molestation and then sued the shrink who conjured up these false memories. Teabag's letters detail his sexual fantasies (most of which involve the leg warmers of the school's jazz-dancing squad), his stalled ambition, and the misshapen pearls of wisdom he's garnered from his bottomed-out life. The story ends in an improbable shootout, but Lipsyte transfigures Teabag's self-loathing into a sensibility that is both hilarious and noble.

Pearl, by Mary Gordon (Pantheon; $24.95). After the death of a teen-age boy peripherally involved in the Troubles, Pearl Meyers, a Wesleyan student on a semester abroad in Ireland, announces that she hasn't eaten in six weeks and then chains herself to the fence at the American Embassy. Her mother, an old-fashioned New York liberal very much like the author, flies to Ireland and embarks on a campaign to save Pearl, who is in a Dublin hospital. Gordon is an exquisite chronicler of guilt and regret, and in this flawed, potent novel many of her recurrent preoccupations are on display: a complicated relationship with lust and greed, a belief in the possibility of redemption through love, and the conviction that everything can be explained, if you just listen hard enough. In a series of flashbacks, Gordon sketches in the background to Pearl's action, but her direct addresses to the reader are intrusive and turn Pearl from a character into an object lesson.

Mad Mary Lamb, by Susan Tyler Hitchcock (Norton; $24. …

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