DOG DAYS by Mavis Cheek (Simon & Schuster: $18.95; 221 pp.) . In the battle of the sexes, Mavis Cheek fights fair. No thumbs in her male characters' eyes, no ideological lead weights in her gloves; just a stinging jab in the face of fatuity and a quick hook to the funny bone.
Attitude counts, because "Dog Days," reduced to a plot outline, is nothing more than a generic feminist novel with a romantic ending tacked on--a novel, moreover, that depends on the flimsiest of contrivances: an apparently married man who turns out, in the nick of time, to be single and available.
But a novel isn't just a plot outline, as Cheek ("Parlor Games") artfully demonstrates. The voice of her heroine, Pat Murray, manages to be feisty, breezy, vulnerable and wise all at once. We listen to Pat describe her self-absorbed opera-singer husband, Gordon; her 10-year-old daughter, Rachel, who wants a dog "if I can't have Daddy"; her liberated women friends, who prod her to divorce Gordon but then can't bear the idea of her living alone--not to mention the semi-comatose mutt she picks up at the pound for Rachel--and we accept the validity of her judgments even as we chuckle.