Careening dangerously between sophisticated wit and sophomoric excess, Bird's first novel--which focuses on a houseful of female misfits and the neighboring fraternity animals determined to disband them--nonetheless provokes an occasional guffaw. Mary Jo Steadman, fed up with picking up after her anthropology professor lover, abandons his apartment for post-grad photography courses and the dubious security of a decaying University of Texas residence, Alamo House. There she forms an uneasy alliance with Fayrene, a 300-pound victim of born-again parents, and the sexual gadabout Collie. It's enigmatic Collie who coaxes Fayrene into dropping the pounds and coaches Mary Jo into a heart-healing fling--both with somewhat disastrous results. It's Collie, too, who mobilizes her inert housemates into full-scale war against the Sigma Upsilon Kappas--the pampered frat boys whose idea of a fun time is vomiting on the Alamo House shrubbery. Even more amusing (and almost as revolting) as the SUK's antics are the revelations of the LBJ library, where heroine Mary Jo toils among boxes of Lucy's petrified wedding cake, letters expressing public displeasure with the former president's method of lifting his pet beagle, and other artifacts pertaining to the ""Johnson social files."" At her side: a punk-rocking historian determined to expose Lady Bird as the ""power behind the throne."" What she lacks in style, Bird makes up for in endearingly eccentric characters; but, like a stand up comic who can't quite help stepping on her own best lines, she undercuts her social satire by driving its points too frequently home.