BOOKS: FICTION'S NEW FAB FOUR

DESPITE THEIR NOVELS' ANTIC PLOTS, THESE TALENTED WRITERS SHARE A SENSIBILITY THAT TRANSCENDS IRONY

What a difference a decade makes. Mediagenic writers like Jay McInerney and Tama Janowitz once held the limelight with modish novels about fast life in the 1980s. But those authors have now faded into their own material, symbols of the superficialities they exploited in their fiction.

Why? One explanation is that literature is no more immune to changing fashions than any other form of entertainment. Novels that reflect only the glittering moment usually turn out to be artifacts, not art. Another reason is that literary fiction of the past two decades, good at dramatizing personal crises, has rarely attempted to engage...

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