BOOKS: SNOBS AND WETBACKS

SNEERING AT THE CLASS DIVIDE

T.Coraghessan Boyle is an overpraised novelist with an unpleasant habit of sneering at his own cardboard characters. Some writers can carry this off, some can't. Aldous Huxley adopted a toplofty attitude toward his creatures, but he had the intellectual force to transform snobbery into satire. Among current novelists, Martin Amis lacks intellectual force but is well supplied with nastiness, which occasionally resembles humor. Boyle merely sounds as if he needs an antacid.

His new novel, The Tortilla Curtain (Viking; 355 pages; $23.95), botches a good theme: the shuddering distaste of California's patio-living Anglos for the Mexican illegals who perform the state's...

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