cover image Slow Burn

Slow Burn

Sabina Murray. Ballantine Books, $7.95 (178pp) ISBN 978-0-345-36773-0

First-novelist Murray's juiceless sentences map youthful degeneration and ennui in Manila. For all the story's foreign tinsel, however, the nightclub-hopping, liquor-guzzling protagonist, Isobel della Fortuna, is a pale clone of the cocaine-addict antihero of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City ; Murray has even included the requisite dying mother who induces guilty soul-searching. Forsaking her boyfriend, illegitimate but beautiful Isobel falls into a dangerous, hopeless liaison with her social better, Paulo Aguilar, whose father, we are told, is the leader of the Philippine opposition. But there is scant political analysis here. Murray is too busy dishing out personal dramas and grand gestures to little effect: Isobel flirts with men by spilling her drinks over the fronts of their shirts; she walks into a smoke-filled room of fashionable ``vultures'' and is certain everyone is watching her, ``trying to predict my next move.'' Isobel and Paulo may intrigue each other (``Being with Paulo is almost like being with myself. We're cynical, we're superior, we're arrogant . . . we're condemned to one another since we can't get along with anyone else''), but their ridiculous shenanigans and sense of self-importance will annoy readers. (July)