Another woebegone childhood propels this thin mix of style and attitude. Like medieval mendicants parading their wounds for alms, the authors of triste contes such as this one avidly flourish their deepest misfortunes--abuse, incest, suicide, less-than-perfect relatives--as if suffering alone were reason enough for a book. These disjointed recollections of the author's sad, nasty family are, ultimately, too familiar. It is a given that novelist Morin (Lampshades, not reviewed), a weekly columnist for England's The Spectator, does not like her parents, especially ``Fuckwit,'' her lumpen, passively offensive father. And her relatives are all pathetic and disgusting saps. Friends turn out badly. Melancholy is always threatening. Then there's the suicide of her beloved (perhaps too beloved) brother John, which provides as much of an overarching narrative as this book possesses: His death echoes across almost every page. If John were presented as a real person instead of a cardboard palimpsest for Morin's egocentric absorption, this could have been genuinely moving. But Morin seems incapable of the required level of empathy. When she runs out of familial miseries to exploit, she coughs up recherchÇ musings on style and the movies, trying to add a mythic, or at least ``glamorous,'' overlay to her unhappiness. We're treated to reflections on the blonde mystique, rehashed fanzine appreciations of Kim Novak, Montgomery Cliff, et al., and pensÇes on the intersections of cinema and life that are neither fresh nor startling. The most stylish thing here is Morin's prose, which has an occasional snap and crackle to it, unlike her affected pose of Catholic nihilism, rooted in the misguided notions that cynicism is easy and that salvation is a byproduct of despair, rather than its apotheosis. Style without substance, glamour without beauty, form without function.