BOOKS: Four Play

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Anyone still smarting from being left off Vanity Fair's "It" list can surely commiserate with Janey Wilcox. The lead character in the first of the four novellas that make up Candace Bushnell's "4 Blondes" (Atlantic Monthly Press; 245 pages; $24) is a former model and "lukewarm" celebrity with "the kind of hair that made people look twice" and "a soft, girlish voice that despite her stunning face and figure... was really her secret weapon." But behind the white teeth and fake breasts is a woman in turmoil. In her early 30s, she is single, past her modeling prime and afflicted with a seasonal disorder that each spring compels her to seek a wealthy bachelor in whose Hamptons home she can spend the summer, only to have the romance fade come fall.

Janey's plight might elicit sympathy from the three other blonds Bushnell depicts: the journalist who learns to appreciate her frequently cuckolded husband only after sleeping with his best friend; the sedated socialite discovering that marriage to a European prince isn't all it's cracked up to be; and the Manhattan society columnist sent to London to uncover the real story of sex in the British Isles.

Unfortunately, Bushnell, who forged her reputation with the often insightful New York Observer column "Sex and the City" (the basis for the HBO series), has not expanded her repertoire — merely fictionalized it with four disagreeable characters. She takes us on the same ride, only this time it's much less fun.