Picks and Pans Review: Partners

updated 11/05/1984 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/05/1984 01:00AM

by Veronica Geng

As a social satirist, Veronica Geng is the best kind of culture vulture. The manias of the masses turn on her considerable talents as much as they turn off her aesthetics. In her first collection of pieces, many of which first appeared in the New Yorker, Geng displays an addict's appetite for pop paraphernalia; instead of sending up a single genre in each piece, her takeoffs overlap categories. She ambushes both record reviewers and Nixon in a piece that critiques the Watergate tapes as though they were recent releases. The Bad Rap album by Nixon & Dean rates a D minus. She crossbreeds a parody on the Hollywood exposé Indecent Exposure with a James M. Cain tough-guy tale and comes up with Indecent Indemnity. In 10 Movies That Take Women Seriously, she imagines a drama in which Jill Clayburgh "goes underground in SoHo, where she falls in love with seven supportive men in her SmokEnders group (Robert De Niro, Vincent Price, R.W. Fassbinder, Al Pacino, Klaus Kinski, Bruno Bettelheim and Bob Balaban) and builds a career as a photographer, taking pictures of a street corner where recently divorced women come to vomit." Even Geng's throwaway titles (I Taught Republicans to Write Poetry) make you laugh. Like a first-rate farceuse, Geng exponentially increases the comedy in each composition. Her endings singe as well as satisfy. Like the pop culture with which she carries on a love-hate affair, Geng is an egalitarian. The objects of her ironic eye may be elitist on occasion, but Geng is not. In the classic title piece she shells society page wedding announcements brilliantly ("Mr. Delos' previous marriage ended in an undisclosed settlement"). If you haven't encountered Geng before, Partners is a fine how-do-you-do. If you have, it's like going to a party with a favorite friend. Either way, this is one to treasure. (Harper & Row, $13.95)

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