Picks and Pans Review: Social Disease

updated 07/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Paul Rudnick

The success of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, and Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero may have created a monster: a type of novel that burrows so far into the urban subculture it hits rock bottom—which wouldn't be so bad if the novels' writers didn't seem to think they had dug all the way through and come out in China. Rudnick, 29, a playwright and magazine free-lancer, has written his first novel about the downtown Manhattan club scene his segment of society richly deserves to be satirized, of course, but a page or two would do it; this novel runs for 195 pages. The result is something like hauling Pee-wee Herman up before a Senate subcommittee to investigate his silly behavior. The novel focuses on a young couple, Guy and Venice, who are devoted to a place called the Club de. They have committed an outrageous act for their circle: getting married. Rudnick is not lacking in wit. For example, Licky Banes, a gay denizen of the Club de: His "ambition was to become a still photograph, a glossy 8-by-10 processed by a master retoucher." Licky has also "pledged a lifelong vow of chatter as surely as Trappists choose silence." While a little of this kind of thing is fun, very much quickly becomes too much. So Rudnick writes of a hot magazine: "If Glaze covered a famine, the pages would trumpet, 'Waistlines Are Back!' " And when Guy chats up an Arab sheik's harem, the sheik has him arrested on charges of "interfering with territorial waters." Guy ends up at a prison where he plays a lot of tennis. "It's pretty bad," he tells Venice when she visits. "Next week I have to go horseback riding." "Oh, no," she says. "Can they do that to you? Isn't it, you know, cruel and unusual?" The notion occurs that it is possible to drown in froth. (Knopf, $14.95)

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