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Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Alibi Staff

OCTOBER 5, 1998: 

Prozac Diary
by Lauren Slater (Random House, cloth, $21.95)

Some of the best writing is a product of madness or depression. But no memoir exploring sanity could be so eloquently written as Prozac Diary. "Much has been said about the meanings we make of illness, but what about the meanings we make of cure?" Lauren Slater writes. "Cure is complex, disorienting, a revisioning of the self. ... It is the new, strange planet pressing in." Slater's cure came--after years of depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder--in the form of the little green pill known as Prozac, what she calls a chemical smart bomb landing at ground zero in the brain. The miracle cure, though, has its Catch-22: loss of sex drive, exhaustion and finally getting off the pill after a decade of serenity. Slater's Diary is a poetic account of emerging suddenly from madness into wholeness, exploring the landscape of the brain with language as affecting and mind-altering as the psychotropic drug with a household name. (JE)

by Rupert Thomson (Knopf, cloth, $24)

Don't let the cover fool you. This book is not about beer. It's a British cautionary tale of the 1980s, complete with Margaret Thatcher and ravening American capitalists. A scheme to promote soda pop by subliminal programming goes awry because of the tremendous sensitivity of a young female subject. She just happens to be beautiful and appealing as well. Class consciousness abounds. Everybody's soul is saved, and they drink a lot of orange-colored beverages. Featured players include a nervous marketing genius and a thug-turned- assassin who yearns to go straight. Recreational drugs are commonplace, and soft drinks are sinister. The have-nots are shamelessly manipulated by the haves, whose own control is tenuous and probably illusory. The author arranges tragic events so fantastically that he winds up making you laugh. He has an acute grasp of visual imagery, but his people talk like television characters. Coincidences turn out to be well planned. Reality might be a dream. Structured like a mystery, this isn't exactly a whodunit. The questions to have answered are "Will he do it?" and "Will they get away with it?" (DC)

The Organ Grinders
by Bill Fitzhugh (Avon, cloth, $20)

The hero of Fitzhugh's sophomore effort is a Sensitive New Age Guy named Paul Symon, and the most entertaining feature of this romp through the fields of kidneys, hearts and livers is spotting references to former Art Garfunkel partner Paul Simon. Said hero has a girlfriend, a former environmental radical and former power forward for an illustrious PAC 10 team. Said hero is avenging his father's death, trying to undo the evil anti-environmental captain of industry who is rapidly dying thanks to a rare disease. And there are giant monkeys running amok. There are scores of scenes that I know should be funny but aren't, like the predictably listless argument in the Hall of Vegetarians (vegan or lacto-ovo?) in which a stalk of celery knocks down one of the combatants. There are two lessons to be learned from all of this worn-out mayhem: 1) there is always room in the health care industry and 2) old jokes, like a vat of eyeballs, start to stink after awhile. (GMP)

But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame!
by Richard Tyler Jordan (Capra Press, paper, $18)

Only hardcore theater historians, Peggy Cass devotees and boys in short pants who always wished they had an Auntie Mame (or that they were Auntie Mame) will find any use for But Darling, ... . I won't reveal which camp I belong to. In any case, it's a disappointment. Among other stupid errors, Richard Tyler Jordan relegates Patrick Dennis, Mame's creator, to a short chapter at the back of the book. The now-forgotten and out-of-print Dennis was one of the great eccentric wits of the '50s and '60s, certainly more interesting than Lucille Ball, and deserves better than nine pages and one photo. The pictures are reproduced in ruinously pixilated black and white. And Jordan doesn't know how to tell an anecdote--the cornerstone of all theatrical history. Finally, the press-kit prose is so awful, so breathless and overburdened with "clamorous" ovations and "proud tears" rolling down cheeks, that it reads like one of Patrick Dennis' parodies. On the other hand, Roz Russell comes off as something of a gorgon, which is mildly gratifying. (JL)

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