Books: Blue Genes

KINFLICKS

by LISA ALTHER 503 pages. Knopf. $8.95.

First novels are the stepchildren of the book family. Publishers—when they agree to print one at all—seem to run off only enough copies for the author and his immediate family. Which is just as well, since none but the most cavernous bookstores bother much about making shelf space for debuts. The self-fulfilling prophecy is then in full operation: the books fail to sell, and no one is surprised.

Twitching Ganglia. Exceptions to this procrustean rule are rare enough to be newsworthy. Lisa Alther's Kinflicks is enjoying a...

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