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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 11, 1996|CHRIS GOODRICH

KINK: by Kathe Koja (Henry Holt: $23; 278 pp.). If Jim Thompson--author of "The Grifters," "The Killer Inside Me" and many other extra-hard-boiled novels--had gone in for erotica, he might have produced something like "Kink." The novel takes place in the Manhattan downtown art scene, a fertile fiction locale, but Kathe Koja doesn't make the most of it; she focuses not on art's relationship to reality, on ways of dissembling, but on sexual obsession.

Jess and Sophie are a young couple quite unworried about careers, money or the future, for they believe they have found everything they need in each other and are soon proved, naturally, dead wrong. Their troubles arrive in the person of Lena, a beautiful art-world denizen with whom they form an all-encompassing, seemingly self-sufficient threesome. The reader sees instantly that Lena is a user but Jess, the novel's somewhat dim and self-centered narrator, does not, apparently blinded by his new roommate's beauty and confidence.

"Kink" describes in detail Jess' obsession with Lena and then belated appreciation of his folly but the novel doesn't provide much beyond sexual and romantic titillation. Koja writes well and composes some good scenes wickedly satirizing the contemporary art world, but much of the time one yearns for original material. Thompson, at his best, went around the bend and into unpredictable territory; Koja here at first seems prepared to tread new ground, but before long her themes and treatments are all too familiar.

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