Effete, archly overwritten impressions of New York City--by a British writer who worked for some years in N.Y. publishing. Brook's 36 mini-chapters begin with his arrival at the airport for a recent visit, his cab-ride through ""moribund and torpid"" Queens (which won't be looked at again), his bizarre reaction to the cabbie's routine chat about strikes: ""Oh, perfect cabbie, model of your kind! Megaphone for every mean-spirited clichâ€š in the book!"" And Brook is hardly in a position to sneer at every ""clichâ€š in the book""--considering what follows. There's that most tired of juxtaposition ironies: the Christmas crush at Tiffany's vs. the ""ocean of devastation"" in the South Bronx. There's a similar glimpse of Harlem and the areas due south: ""That this prosperity and sophistication sours with every step that you take north of 96th Street doesn't concern affluent New Yorkers. They simply don't see it."" There are the obligatory views of conspicuous consumption at Bloomingdale's and Zabar's. (""Munch, munch, stomp, stomp. . ."") Furthermore, when Brook isn't trading in commonplaces, he's usually seeking out the kinky or the glitzy: two chapters on gay baths and bars (""You become your cock and the curve of your ass""); a screening of Wrestling Women vs. Dr. Assassin at the Pyramid Club; Studio 54; etc. And most of Brook's glances at mainstream N.Y.--a hospital emergency-room, a TV newsroom, the subway--are contorted by his unfocused sarcasm: at a civic affair he pointlessly mocks Abe Beame (""only three foot six in his socks""); at the Met, he recoils from all the audience types--especially those ""tiny old ladies. . . feminine counterparts to the much-loved Abe Beame doll. They appear to be swapping bagel recipes."" (Anti-Semitism, from the very subtle to the not-so-subtle, is just one unpleasant undercurrent here.) Slightly more interesting are mini-interviews with Koch, Bellamy, Diana Trilling, Irving Kristol, and Robert Lekachman--but this is lamely phrased piffle overall, weak as travel-writing and weaker still as socio-cultural journalism.