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IN BRIEF

Fiction

March 01, 1992|KAREN STABINER

GOOD GOSSIP by Jacqueline Carey (Random House: $18; 208 pp.) Before his fall, radio talk-show host Jack Lucas (as played by Jeff Bridges in "The Fisher King") posited that yuppie inbreeding was resulting in a feeble species, all too obsessed with conformity and advancement. Novelist Ann Beattie and a few others have milked what subtleties there were from the group, but it's not a dependably rich vein. The trick is to mimic the deadpan boredom of the characters without writing boring stories; the question, as we head out of the yuppie-driven '80s and into the morally retooled '90s, is whether anyone can make us care about those cute kids any more. If Jacqueline Carey succeeds--and she does, to some extent--it is because she has created characters with weird psychological tics, not so strange that they would be outcasts in yuppie culture but idiosyncratic enough to draw readers into an admittedly limited universe. There is Susannah, who decides to marry Harry though none of her friends can discern a single reason why she would want to, and who later expresses her dissatisfaction by throwing her wedding ring (she is on her fifth) out of the nearest window. There are Frank and Anthony, the former taking pleasure in acting out the latter's slightest comment, and there is the narrator, Rosemary, who is smart enough to be perceptive but not perceptive enough to be aware of anything outside her little clique. When this is good, it is very, very good--Carey has a nice wry eye for detail--but when it is bad, it is like some hothouse plant, thriving and out of sync.

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