Lemann's second novel rambles on in its deceptively ladylike way, much like her first, Lives of the Saints (1985), which shares the same sense of lovable absurdity, and which also flirts with the dark side. This fragmentary tale of displaced southerners embraces the ``insane maniacs'' who stagger across its pages and into the life of its narrator, Storey Collier, a thirtysomethingish belle from ``Looziana'' who works for a major New York City newspaper. This admitted ``glamour gal'' spends her weekends at Orient Point, an enclave of eight houses on the North Shore of Long Island, where she keeps an eye on her cousin's children while he--a ``glamour boy'' turned ``burnt-out failure''--dries out in a New Orleans sanitarium. Everywhere she goes, Storey seeks out the sleazy, broken-down aspect of things--the sort of grubby elegance that reminds her of home. The rickety enclave on Long Island, with its whirl of boating, dinner parties, bridge, and ``getting plastered all afternoon,'' is summer home to a number of romantic characters- -from the volatile southern girl and ``live wire'' Margaret, who lands in jail every other night, to little Al Collier, the charming three-year-old son of Storey's cousin, a pint-size philosopher who adores both Storey and her former ``heartthrob,'' Hobby Fox. A ``moody bachelor'' and former pro baseball player, Hobby is a colleague of Storey's at the paper, and also a strong, silent type given to misanthropy, with a ``dark Southern wit.'' The ever- neurasthenic Storey, who agonizes over her career and her failure at romance, suffers with grace and a wit all her own; she beguiles with her sense of ``big-league poignancy'' and her tendency to overdramatize everything. Lemann's atmospheric fiction, with its loopy lyrical style, is an elegant testament to courtliness and gentility.