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First-novelist Dess offers a sophisticated, if belabored, novel of postmodern manners in which a bisexual bookshop manager haplessly watches a pretty photographer sell herself to the status-obsessed egos of the N.Y.C. art world--for the proverbial 15 minutes of fame. Stephen, manager of a chic Soho bookstore, is fascinated by gamin-photographer Gilberte when he runs into her at a group photography show. He thinks her photographs are bad. but there is something about her nervous determination that he finds endearing He can't bring himself to ask for a date. so he doesn't see her again for months. Then, when he spots her in an all-night diner, she's too drunk to do anything but pass out in his art-filled loft. Eventually, she drops by the bookstore--demanding a job. Stephen gets permission to hire her from Roger, the fabulously rich but retiring real-estate developer who owns the bookstore--but his book-stacking bliss with Gilberte is shattered when Roger's status-mad wife, Kristine, sweeps in to meet Gilberte. In no time, Kristine takes ambitious Gilberte around to parties and art openings, promoting her as a brilliant young artist. Stephen knows that Kristine doesn't give a hoot about the quality of Gilberte's work; what shocks him is that Gilberte is having an affair with Kristine solely to advance her career. Stephen is too ambivalent to confront Gilberte--she even gets him to write a screenplay. They have a brief affair (though Stephen is more gay than bisexual)--but in the end, Gilberte bolts from New York and the status game. Dess' wonderful social observations are marred by slack pacing and overabundant explanation. A satisfying read, however--particularly if big-city manners are your cup of gin.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1988
Publisher: Harper & Row