BOOKS . . . BRIGHT ANGEL TIME: "As will be clear to anyone, including this reviewer, who knew the author's family when she was a child, models for the fictional characters in Martha McPhee's novel (Random House; 244 pages; $23) were found close to home," says TIME's John Skow. "Her father, the writer John McPhee, who has written several books on geology, is detectable in lightest disguise as a professor of geology, and the author herself is surely the youngest of several daughters (three in the novel, four in real life), the bemused eight-year-old narrator, Kate." Kate's pretty, childish mother, falls in love with her therapist, a slightly sleazy charmer named Anton. Mom drags the girls across the U.S. to meet her lover at Esalen, the California therapy spa, borrowing gas money from Kate. Then with Anton, his five children and a couple of hippy hitchhikers, they cross the country again in a large turquoise camper, all of them smoking pot and drinking wine, the kids practicing sarcasm, and everyone quarreling. "The moral of this funny and acerbic family novel is, Don't give your clever eight-year-old anything to write about," Skow notes. "Do not twit, tease, appall, amuse, behave weirdly in the presence of, or otherwise give fertile novelistic material to, the sort of shrewd moppet who may someday find a publisher."
BOOKS . . . PROMISCUITIES: "Along with Katie Roiphe's 1993 book, 'The Morning After,' and Nancy Friday's 1996 'The Power of Beauty,' Naomi Wolf's 'Promiscuities' (Random House; 286 pages; $24) represents a tendency among contemporary feminist writers to emphasize reminiscence over research," says TIME's Ginia Bellafante. "This can make for lively reading, but not here, because Wolf fails to take her anecdotes to any useful end. The banal stories in Promiscuities are of young women who dated the wrong guys, who wish they hadnít lost their virginity so early, who were forced to deal with unplanned pregnancies." Wolfe's long drawn-out point is that female longing is dangerously suppressed in our allegedly liberated culture. Her solution? Women should be more vocal about their sexual histories and yearnings. But she does not thoughtfully explain how such venting would help in a culture already teeming with daytime talk shows, hyped authors of best-selling incest memoirs, and Alanis Morissette.