BOOKS . . . THE KISS: "It might be better if this woeful memoir had been a novel; its tone of hysterical self-obsession might pass as fiction," notes TIME's Martha Duffy. But Kathryn Harrison has already drawn on the theme of adult incest in her 1991 novel, Thicker than Water, to no great reverberance, so in The Kiss (Random House; 207 pages; $20) she tries the currently fashionable route of confession. Hers: an affair with her father. Harrison’s preacher father was kicked out of the house by her mother and grandparents when she was tiny, and she had almost no contact with him until she was 20. When her father re-enters her life, and they become mutually obsessed. The actual affair does not begin until a gloomy courtship by letter, tape and phone call has worn thin. The carnal phase is really an epilogue. Soon the father has shed religion in favor of breeding attack dogs, and the daughter has decamped for New York City to write a novel. "One hesitates to question the veracity of a book labeled a memoir," says Duffy, "but Harrison’s overheated prose and her sketchy characters and settings make this more a purple tale than a glimpse of truth."
MOVIES . . . SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW: When we first meet Smilla in director Bille August's intricate and compelling realization of Peter Hoeg's best-selling novel, Smilla Jaspersen has given her professional life over to the frozen music of mathematics, her private life over to bone-chilling isolation. The set of Smilla’s face, the carriage of her body, as Julia Ormond plays her, says, “Don’t ask, don’t touch.” She relents -- angry at the show of weakness -- for just one person. That is a lonely little boy named Isaiah, who lives in her apartment building. One day Smilla comes home from work and finds Isaiah dead, the victim of a fall from their building’s rooftop. An accident, the police insist. A murder, her intuition tells her. This suspicion is confirmed by the increasingly hostile behavior of the authorities as she begins to investigate the case. It will come as no surprise to devotees of the paranoid thriller—is there any other kind nowadays?—that the victim is accidentally privy to information that threatens the secret plans of a powerful mining corporation to exploit and sully Greenland’s purity. It will come as no surprise to them either that as the conspiracy surrounding Smilla begins to take form, the movie loses some of its superbly shadowed sense of menace. "It is the very great pleasure of this movie," says TIME's Richard Schickel, "that its truly haunting suspense derives not from Smilla’s conflict with her external enemies but from her own demons."