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IN BRIEF

Fiction

March 21, 1993|CHRIS GOODRICH

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND by Eric Bogosian (Hyperion: $9.95, paper; 160 pp.). One of the scary things about Eric Bogosian's characters is the way many of them think--brilliantly, at times, but usually with a severe twist. The narrator in "Notes From Underground," the first of two stage works in is volume, is such a character, a sometime office worker who isn't losing his mind so much as stretching it beyond capacity. The "notes" are his diary, and his innermost thoughts reveal someone with an odd but at first congenial introspection: If you were smarter than Einstein, he wonders, would you have to "become stupid just so you could have someone to talk to?" The narrator deteriorates in the course of the work--you know he's in trouble when he writes, "I think about the fact that I think about thinking"--and starts to follow women in museums and pick up children in playgrounds, but Bogosian has gotten so completely inside the character's head that he never seems evil or mad, or even particularly dangerous. At one point the narrator writes "What's the difference between being alive and being dead? Doing things. That's why it's important to do as many things as you can," and it's an absolutely chilling statement because its logic is internally consistent. "Notes From Underground" is a fascinating work; its companion piece, "Scenes From the New World," is not, the power Bogosian brings to his monologues becoming diffused--and defused--among the play's many characters.

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