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January 27, 1991|Charles Solomon

EQUAL DISTANCE by Brad Leithauser (Penguin: $8.95). Awkward and graceful by turns, Brad Leithauser's second novel resembles its gawky, post-adolescent central character. Cautious, precise Danny Ott has taken a year off from Harvard Law School to work and study in Kyoto--and search for his identity. But he's quickly seduced from his duties by two other Americans: Gary Blaising, an idle, dissolute charmer, and blonde, brittle Carrie Pingree. The drunken antics of this unlikely trio recall the self-conscious Angst of an earlier generation of expatriates in Paris. Although Gary and Carrie supposedly teach English, neither of them seem to do anything but complain about their well-heeled anxieties. Danny is an interesting and believable character, but he gives up the work that constitutes the focus of his life a little too readily. Leithauser obviously is a writer of considerable promise, but he needs a judicious editor.

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