cover image Vanishing Points

Vanishing Points

Thea Astley / Author Putnam Publishing Group $21.95 (234p) ISB

As depicted in these two wickedly observant, interlinked novellas, the southeastern ``gold coast'' of the author's native Australia is a den of dropouts, rednecks, ex-hippies, oldtimers and misfits--free spirits seeking liberty and self-definition in a world where progress threatens all that is authentically Australian. In ``The Genteel Poverty Bus Company,'' a jaundiced, solitude-seeking tour guide named Mac erects a labyrinth on his private island, only to find his calm shattered by a glitzy resort going up on the adjacent atoll. He wages war (mainly with loud classical music) against the resort's obnoxious developer, Clifford Truscott, whose wonderfully vitriolic wife Julie narrates the second novella, ``Inventing the Weather.'' Ditched by Clifford for their Swedish housekeeper, Julie guiltily leaves their three children with him and hooks up with a trio of renegade nuns who run a health clinic serving aborigines and the poor--until Clifford buys out their coastal enclave for another resort. Astley ( Hunting the Wild Pineapple ) has a quicksilver prose style and a keen satirical eye that make this book a delight. ( Sept. )