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IN BRIEF

Fiction

February 04, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

EMERALD CITY And Other Stories by Jennifer Egan (Doubleday / Nan A. Talese: $22.50; 178 pp.). Do you have any idea how many damaged, unhappy people there are in the world? How many secrets carried by children, how many tortured souls functioning in society just seconds from where you sit? These stories are peopled with characters, often too young to know any better, who make life-ruining decisions or whose lives careen out of their control. A man whose stock-market cheating costs him his career and his family's respect, a woman who loses the one person she loves (her daughter) in a divorce, a child who accidentally kills his mother, a woman who trades her soul for a marriage--none of these are even people you like. They are trapped, they have that suffocating inability to communicate that can make a reader feel like dying (one indication of good writing?) and in a couple of cases, they are boorish, materialistic, shallow people with crushingly useless jobs like fashion stylist or model. Should you read this book? I don't know. How strong, how tolerant, how nonjudgmental are you? Me, it's enough to make me want to read nothing but gardening books.

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