by Daniel Marchesseau

He was the silent one, the brother who lived in the shadows. Everyone knew his sibling, Alberto Giacometti, the sculptor renowned for his emaciated figures, shaped and gouged to the bone by an insistent hand. But today the work of Diego, Alberto's younger brother, has emerged as brilliant in its own right. Marchesseau, curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, makes clear that Diego, one of the most talented furniture makers of the 20th century, was as much an artist as his brother. During Alberto's lifetime Diego worked selflessly as his collaborator. He made armatures for many of his brother's sculptures and took charge of the bronze casting. Alberto acknowledged Diego's great worth. "The sculptor, that's Diego," he once told photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. But Diego attracted little attention. Even the highly praised bases he designed for Alberto's figures were so skillfully made they seem to grow out of the sculptures. But when Alberto died in 1966, Diego in a very real sense was reborn. For the next 19 years he created beautifully proportioned tables, lamps, chairs and stools. Rustic but elegant, they combine an effortless classicism with a quiet whimsicality. Diego often, for instance, attached animals to his work. Elephants, wolves, foxes, stags, frogs and rats, a menagerie of little creatures, turn up on the stretchers of many of his tables. A turtle dove perches on the top of a garden table he made in 1978. A mouse on its hind legs prepares to scamper up the leg of a low table completed about 1982. While they remain distinctive, Diego's animals were just grace notes. "His tiny beasts were only fantasies for him," Marchesseau writes, "a wink of a friendly eye." Marchesseau, who was collaborating with Giacometti on this book at the artist's death in 1985, traces Diego's life from his childhood in the bleak village of Stampa in the Swiss Alps to his existence in Paris, where he lived and worked for 60 years. In short, absorbing chapters he describes the artist's studio and his casting techniques, including his work on his last and greatest commission: the chandeliers, tables and chairs he created for the Picasso Museum in Paris. After Giacometti's death, an assistant attached Headwaiter Cat to his tomb. A sculpture of a cat standing upright bearing a bowl in its paws, it was Diego Giacometti's favorite work. Written and designed with unusual grace and restraint, this lovely art book contains more than 300 photographs of Giacometti and his work. (Abrams, $75)

by James Dickey

The idea for this novel is a grand one, but the sweep and power the story should have are suffocatingly buried in a mass of tedious detail. The year is 1943. Frank Cahill, 54, is blinded by diabetes. He closes up the Atlanta amusement park he owns and, with his dog, takes a bus to an Air Corps training base near a little North Carolina town called Peckover. His only son, a cadet in training, has crashed his plane and is presumed dead. (This is a son Cahill never saw—his wife left him before the boy was born.) At the air base Cahill finds that his son, who was the best at everything, is a kind of cult hero to other trainees. Dickey, a poet and author of the novel Deliverance, occasionally divides pages in this book into two columns. At first this seems an enormous obstacle, but there is a point to it: Bold type on the left of the page contains Cahill's thoughts and words; the second column describes what others see and say. Other flourishes are less forgivable. There is garbled information about Alnilam, a minor star at the center of a galaxy. Air movements are constantly noted. The symbolism is plentiful, poetic and clunky—all at the same time. The story should, at some point, take off and soar, give us a thrill, but it never makes it. One problem may be Cahill's dialogue, pseudo-redneck gruff. He says things like, "I bet you couldn'a drove a needle up your ------- with a sledgehammer." Instead of grandeur, Alnilam has a cheerless phoniness about it. The problem may be that Dickey does not love his characters. He patronizes them—and the reader—with arty pretensions. (Doubleday, $19.95)

by Sherri Daley

Philip L. Hehmeyer had been chairman of the New York Cotton Exchange only two months when on Aug. 20, 1982 he killed himself with a shotgun blast in the chest, pulling the trigger with a string tied to his toes. At 37, he had bought long on ambition and sold short on personal insight. A blackboard in his toney East Side apartment proclaimed his last glib observation: "Somebody had to do it. Self-awareness is silly." Daley, his longtime lover, makes an impressive writing debut with this memoir of their tortured affair. She deftly captures the heady, sexy world of the money turks who literally jump into rings that are part of the exchange floor to compete in the Wall Street financial market. "I had never known a group of people who lived as recklessly as they did," she writes. "They pushed their limits; they played hardball. They were players, and they had no time for day traders who played close to the vest. They almost worshipped risk taking." Hehmeyer was a charismatic Southern boy who radiated genteel charm. He fancied midnight sailboat rides in the snow, vintage Jaguars, cocaine, booze and weekends on Nantucket or Long Island's North Shore. Daley, a school teacher from Michigan, was his willing Yankee victim. She joined Hehmeyer's crowd of shallow, impulsive and sexually promiscuous buddies with abandon and, when spurned by Hehmeyer, had a son out of wedlock with his onetime best friend. This book starts strongly, capturing the tempo and subculture of Wall Street, then peters out when Hehmeyer ditches Daley. From that point the book chronicles the author's sexual and advertising-career adventures, which read like those of a failed Cosmo girl. Daley occasionally overwrites and dishes up inane dialogue. Still, High Cotton—Southern slang for great wealth—shows what life can be like for attractive single women trying to make it with very little support in New York. It's a potent tale with an F. Scott Fitzgerald twist. (Norton, $18.95)

by James Spada

In an ideal world, biographies—celebrity or otherwise—enlighten, inspire and entertain. Then there is the real world and this unnecessary exercise in useless voyeurism. Is it enlightening to know that in spite of her cool veneer, Grace Kelly was an untamed sexpot who bedded such well-known older men as Ray Milland, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, William Holden and Oleg Cassini? No. Is it inspiring to know that Grace overcame the early crying jags and insomnia that plagued her when she married Prince Rainier and became Monaco's first lady? Or that later in life she succumbed to bouts of loneliness and depression? Uh-uh. Is it entertaining to know, as one former lover reveals, that "she used to dance naked for me to Hawaiian music..."? Hardly. The author claims that the more people he interviewed about Grace, the more he realized that the truth about her needed to be told. But Spada seems far more devoted to posthumous gossip. While there is information from clippings and old interviews with Grace, the fresh interviews Spada did stress the intimate, not always idyllic details of Grace's life. It should, of course, not surprise anyone that, image notwithstanding, Kelly's life was not a fairy tale. Her story is basically a simple one: She was a beautiful woman who loved older men (perhaps because she felt unloved by her own wealthy father); she was a solid, well-liked but unspectacular actress; she married well, raised three handsome children and died tragically. Her life was enough of an open book; keep this one closed. (Dolphin, $17.95)

by Laurie Alberts

There is a bleak fascination about this first novel that brings to mind The Iceman Cometh. When the young characters look around for guidance—or at least for a reasonably attractive example—they find only pipe dreams and scarring memories. The book's protagonist, Allie, is 20 and has been trying to flee her psychologically and physically abusive parents in a small town near Boston. She manages the separation in mileage terms, ending up in a small Alaskan fishing town, but her conflicting desires to love her mother and father and to be free of them hang over her. Everything she does seems doomed, from trying to get a job as a hand on a fishing boat to falling in love with a young Indian man, Sonny, whose own alcoholic mother has him in a kind of thrall too. While Allie falls in and out of jobs and beds, the novel and her life turn on her affair with Sonny. The story's real climax comes when she bullies him into living up to his idle boast that he will go to Denver to find a new life. Alberts, a New York writer, could have used a tougher editor. The novel, at nearly 340 pages, is 50 pages too long, and her language occasionally seems clumsy: At one point Allie finds her "head aching from the ping ping ping of the pinball machine being raped by a teenager." Allie is, however, a strangely sympathetic character, who still believes in hope in the abstract, without knowing what she wants. When she tries fishing for salmon on her own, in a tiny boat, she finds herself alone on the ocean and frightened, but thinks, "No, she wasn't afraid of drowning, she was afraid she wouldn't care." Her blind determination, set amidst the cycles of the fishing seasons and the inevitability of the tide, is one of those human qualities that is so thoughtless it can hardly be admired. But it can be marveled at and puzzled over, which is what Alberts seems to be doing, often with provocative results. (Houghton Mifflin, $17.95)

  • Contributors:
  • Harriet Shapiro,
  • Campbell Geeslin,
  • Mary Vespa,
  • Carol Wallace,
  • Ralph Novak.