Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Blake de pastino, Sue Schuurman, Stephen Ausherman, Michael Henningsen

DECEMBER 8, 1997: 

Martini Diaries
by Leslie Ann Nash (Chronicle, cloth, $22.95)

Because of the recent return to the Age of Swank, young wags everywhere are now sipping on martinis. Could the literature of the lounge lizard be far behind? Martini Diaries is a work of fiction, written up to look like a collection of behind-the-rail notes compiled by the bartender of a Parisian jazz club. Accented with anecdotes and quotes relating to the club's famous clientele, the body of the Diaries is a list of highly unlikely martini recipes, many of which were (we are to believe) created at the customer's request. Josephine Baker's take on the drink called for a floating rose petal. Noel Coward required pickled sweetbreads. Et cetera. Martini Diaries is so cool it's hokey, but nonetheless it's handsome to look at and comes with a brushed metal slipcase to protect these recipes from a sloppily-issued jigger of vermouth. (BdeP)

Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden (Knopf, cloth, $25)

The world of a geisha should be foreign enough to most modern-day Western readers. Although it's obvious this tale of a young Japanese girl being sold by her father into a brutal life as a slave, perhaps with a future as a geisha, has been meticulously researched and is rich with detail, this work is none other than an adolescent romance novel. There are occasional gems, such as poetic descriptions of the geisha Sayuri's inner turmoil likened to the forces of wind or water. But a good two-thirds of the novel centers on the unrequited pining of Sayuri for a wealthy older man and the endless manipulations among the other geishas in Kyoto, who compete for the attentions of businessmen drunk on sake. Arthur Golden, a scholar of Japanese history, should consider sticking to nonfiction. (SS)

Plays Well With Others
by Allan Gurganus (Knopf, cloth, $25)

When Allan Gurganus set out to write his first book, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, he said it wouldn't be done until the manuscript was as thick as a cinderblock. In Plays Well with Others, his second full-length novel, Gurganus once again strives for the grand scale by likening New York City in the '80s to the Titanic. Hartley, the narrator, reflects on his circle of artist friends and their life of vocational partying. They're young, successful, completely self-absorbed and unaware of the doom lurking in the waters ahead: AIDS. While not a fiercely original idea for a story, and perhaps my least favorite from the North Carolina author, it's still an insightful study of what it means to be the caretaker of dying friends. Besides, you gotta love a book that starts out with a chapter titled "Thirty Dildoes." (SA)

Post Punk Diary: 1980-1982
by George Gimarc (Griffin, paper, $24.95)

Talk about being all-consumed. George Gimarc doesn't simply reflect on two years in the wonderful world of punk rock--the transitional period between American and U.K. punk of the '70s and the birth of new wave--he gives a day-by-day account. Post Punk Diary contains more detailed information on the bands, the records, live shows and media events than most people are willing or able to digest. And without a bibliography or list of sources, the reader is left to believe that Gimarc was there--everywhere--every day. The book is an overwhelming document of history. The period he covers is brief, but Gimarc's knowledge of what happened and to whom is daunting. Behold, the ultimate in anal. Post Punk Diary is an astounding achievement, but one that only the rabid few are likely to fully appreciate. (MH)

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