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October 23, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

TALKATIVE MAN by R. K. Narayan (Penguin: $9.95; 123 pp.) and A TIGER FOR MALGUDI by R. K. Narayan (Penguin: $8.95; 152 pp.). In "Talkative Man," Narayan's deft prose reads like an entre nous confidence over coffee at the Boardless Hotel cafe--exactly the way a minor journalist (and major gossip) would recount a juicy story. The arrival of the mysterious Dr. Rann to collect data for an important UN study throws the imaginary South Indian town of Malgudi into an uproar, and Talkative Man chronicles the rise and fall of the flamboyant humbug. "Tiger" is narrated by Raja, a former circus star whose consciousness has been raised by a holy ascetic. Narayan uses his feline character to poke fun at the foibles of humanity, much the way Kipling used Bagheera, the panther in "The Jungle Books."

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