cover image I'll Take It

I'll Take It

Paul Rudnick. Alfred A. Knopf, $18.95 (291pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57917-7

From the double-edged title to its last line, Rudnick's new novel spotlights its author's comic gifts even more vividly than did his hilarious, cartoonish debut, Social Disease. Turning his attention from brainless club-hopping WASPs to a nice Jewish family from New York whose members have an unusual fondness for shopping, Rudnick uses his wicked ear for dialogue and sure sense of caricature to sustain a vengefully funny and deeply affectionate portrait. Hedy Reckler and her older sisters Ida and Pola have worked hard to pamper their husbands and children; now, with Hedy's layabout son Joe, they plan a small reward: a week-long trip through New England, ostensibly to see the autumn leaves, but actually a barely veiled excuse for a multi-state shopping spree. For all four, shopping is a spiritual, emotional and close to carnal pleasure, but unlike her sisters, Hedy doesn't always understand the phrase ``I'll take it'' to involve payment. Rudnick writes about shopping with the passion a master chef would bring to describing the perfect truffle, and some of his comic set-pieces provoke helpless laughter, but the heart of the novel is his depiction of Ida, Pola and Hedy: quarrelsome, nostalgic and completely true to life. (May)