"T. Coraghessan Boyle is an overpraised novelist with an unpleasant habit of sneering at his own cardboard characters," writes criticJohn Skow. Some writers can carry this off; Boyle definitely can't. His new novel (Viking; 355 pages; $23.95) has possibilities in its discussion of the shuddering distaste of California's Anglos for the Mexican illegals who perform the state's stoop labor. But the author mistrusts his skill and the reader's acuteness. "This is weak, obvious stuff," says Skow, "worth a raised eyebrow and a shrug."