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August 20, 1995|CHARLES SOLOMON

MID-LIFE CONFIDENTIAL: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America with Three Chords and an Attitude edited by Dave Marsh (Plume/Penguin: $12.95; 222 pp., illustrated). In 1991, "media escort" Kathi Goldmark invited a number of writers to form a rock band: A performance at the American Booksellers' Assn. annual convention would raise money for charity. Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Matt Groening, Barbara Kingsolver and Robert Fulghum were among the authors who accepted. The group subsequently toured, having fun but raising little money. In this anthology, King, Tan and Kingsolver reflect on their experiences; Groening wittily lampoons pretentious rock criticism. But maybe you had to be there; when these critically and/or commercially successful writers whine about the tribulations of the writer's life and their need to do something daring, the reader is apt to recall Noel Coward's lyric "Stop being gallant / And don't be such a bore / Pack up your talent / There's always plenty more."

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