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Picks by Martha Close (MC) and Elizabeth Costello (EC)

'Miss Wyoming'
By Douglas Coupland (Pantheon, 313 pages)

A former beauty queen/B-list celeb disappears and reinvents herself as a jaded movie producer, changes her name to "." and hits the road. Mix in a pair of semi-omniscient geeks, the fascinatingly grotesque world of beauty pageants and an obsessive-compulsive ex-weatherman, and you have Miss Wyoming. Fans of Coupland will relish the glib observation, slick similes and quirky asides they've come to expect from the master of the contemporary voice. Miss Wyoming doesn't answer all of life's riddles, as Girlfriend in a Coma claimed to, nor does it voice the malaise of a demographic that Generation X did so famously, but there's a certain cheery, warm, life-affirming tenderness in the ending. Maybe he's losing his edge? (MC)

By Chuck Palahniuk (Anchor Books, 289 pages)

Survivor, the latest novel by the author of Fight Club, reads like a series of one-liners on all that is sick in American culture. Tender Branson is the last known living member of a religious cult. The book tells the story of Branson's struggles with an evil twin, a prescient bimbo named Fertility, and a society hellbent on turning him into a celebrity. The joke is on us, because "we" (i.e. overdrugged, oversexed media-blitzed Americans) can't seem to find meaning in life despite all our meds and distractions. The problem with Survivor is that it is so intent on showing us that American modern life is meaningless that the book itself quickly becomes tedious. If you find endless sardonicism and sarcasm comforting, you may well enjoy this book. But if you're looking for a novel with believable, well-developed characters participating in a circus with more than a one-trick pony, you should look elsewhere. (EC)

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From the April 17, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc.