Picks and Pans Review: The Better Class

UPDATED 08/25/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/25/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Alice Colombo

This novel is the size of a tabloid newspaper with a glossy paper cover and magazine-style binding. Uncaptioned photos of beautiful people—models, actually—are decorative illustrations. The heroine is a wealthy Roman countess who lives to look beautiful, to feel splendid and to give parties where glitterati like actress Monica Vitti and novelist Alberto Moravia show up. (Colombo, an actress-screenwriter, is a New Yorker who has worked in Italy with Fellini and Wertmuller.) The characters are described by where they buy their clothes and how many apartments they own in how many countries. At parties the chatter goes like this:" 'Darlings, Umberto is underground, just like Abbie Hoffman. I swear it. Even I don't know where he is.' 'Why don't you try the Savoy?' asks Countess Silvia Caréna. 'I agree,' adds Duke Emanuele d'Urbe. 'After all, times change, people change, but good hotels don't.' " It takes enormous tolerance for whimsy chic to plow through some of this stylish comic-book trash, but parts of the book are funny and some random violence of Italian terrorists is shocking. Maiming, suicide and murder, in fact, are treated as casually as sex. The whole thing is a triumph of form over substance. (Dial, $6)

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