cover image Cannibal in Manhattan

Cannibal in Manhattan

Tama Janowitz. Random House Value Publishing, $17.95 (287pp) ISBN 978-0-517-56624-4

The author of the bestselling Slaves of New York offers here a less successful effort but an equally sardonic view of the wormy Big Apple, narrated in the stilted voice of Mgungu Yabba Mgungu, self-described as a ""brutal and violently ignorant savage, though charming in a primitive way, who was fleeing his wives and 13 children for the charms of a young American, possibly even the Hamptons and the New York Film Festival if everything went well and I played my cards right.'' Bored and narcissistic heiress Maria Fishburn, a Peace Corps volunteer, scoops up Mgungu, a South Seas purple-skinned cannibal and brings him back to Manhattan to dance at the Museum of Primitive Cultures, marry her and serve as a generally useful conversation piece. Mgungu wanders, picaro-style, the streets of New York and satirizes the natives, from the vapid chic to the Bowery bums. The distinctive device of putting into Mgungu's mouth arch descriptions of creamy pink and puce art deco home decors or of civilized small talk (``I realized that what I was bearing witness to was that thing known as innuendo'') waxes tiresome and self-conscious. With her unexplained plot gaps and inclusion of photos that feature herself, the late Andy Warhol and other hip folk, Janowitz manipulates her readers as surely as the hapless Mgungu is used by the depraved criminals who swarm the all-consuming jungle that is New York. Major ad/promo. (September 25)