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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 20, 1995|DICK RORABACK

HALF CRAZY by J.M. McDonell. (Little, Brown: $19.95; 259 pp.) Call it the bicycle method of writing. Keep it moving or it'll topple over. J.M. McDonell, in her first novel, has mistaken motion for motif. She creates a vivid scene and on the surface, her puppets are engaging enough. In the grand design of the novel, they face the requisite crises, then resolve them. But it's all just that--on the surface. Manipulated outrageously is Miranda, breathtaking blond beauty, budding supermodel, come to big bad Gotham from Arkansas (whose wit and wisdom still sustain her: "Why worry about the mule going blind before you load the wagon?") David, her inseparable New York friend, writes romance novels. He is both gay and the narrator, a neat trick for a woman author. Local color is Juliana, neighborhood bag lady and rabid punter who speaks only in the names of racehorses. Justifying claims of an NYC roman a clef is Delaney, hot young writer who dresses only in white suits (fancy that!). Adding Hollywood sheen is actor Henry Garcia and his two actor sons, Bobby Wilder and Esteban Garcia. Larry Owen produces TV hits; he's married to Patrice Wentworth, nee Patti Woznitsky, with all the baggage that implies. Lifestyles of the rich and famous are rendered with rapture--a private jet, an estate in Jamaica, old-money Long Island--but have nothing to do with plot. Ah, plot! Miranda's face is slashed in an assault never fully explained. Nevertheless, it gives her the opportunity to cogitate over the loss of her only asset, and to discover who her friends really are. Meanwhile we read and we learn, to wit: "Real men hate sweet potatoes."

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