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No One's in the Kitchen With Dinah : SURRENDER THE PINK By Carrie Fisher (Simon & Schuster: $18.95; 269 pp.)

September 23, 1990|Deanne Stillman | Stillman is the author of several books, including the memoir "Getting Back at Dad" (Wideview). She currently is writing a "Movie of the Week" about a father-daughter reunion for Hearst Entertainment.

In other words, the result of a malfunctioning father-daughter relationship is an unwitting Bartleby the Scrivener, a character who likes neither her work nor her life, who might as well be toiling at the dead-letter desk in the post office. Since she is driven not by passion or desire, Dinah Kaufman is fueled instead by personality tics. When those can no longer propel the novel, the author resorts to such devices as the writers' strike of 1988, which provides the idle time for Dinah to run after her ex-husband.

It's unfortunate that Fisher the actress was unable to tell Fisher the writer that a character cannot possibly be motivated in such ways. And evidently editors, who may be going the way of the ozone layer, were unable to bridge the gap. So what the reader gets is a novel that surrenders no colors of the behavioral spectrum--just jokes, interesting asides and evocative vignettes.

If only Dinah had been permitted to escape the tomb of her mind, to flash just the tiniest bit of her secret self, even if she then closed forever like a cold-water clam! At least the reader would have known why Dinah is sealed by her fate, would have seen her struggle to overcome it.

But as it stands now, Dinah is entombed not by herself but by her creator, a stand-in who is unable to "surrender the pink." Or, perhaps, to paraphrase Bartleby, "the narrator would prefer not to."

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