The Cover Artist

Paul Micou, Author Simon & Schuster $18.45 (286p) ISBN 978-0-671-72938-7

Shy cartoonist Oscar Lemoine's scandalous nude caricatures of celebs grace the front covers of the satirical magazine Lowdown. Oscar swims and dances with his black Labrador, Elizabeth, a ``superb painter'' whose pawed acrylics are exhibited to much acclaim in France, where Oscar basks in self-imposed exile. His budding romance with airhead socialite Veronique is imperiled when he discovers that her sinister elderly companion, Herr Dohrmann, whom Oscar presumed to be her father, is someone else entirely. Shuttling between Manhattan and the Riviera, this often hiliarious novel delights as both shaggy dog story and loopy yet oddly sane spoof of a hopelessly mucked-up world. In achingly funny encounters, Micou ( The Music Programme ) fleshes out a daft gallery of characters, including Bunny Fenton, a revenge-seeking TV reporter whom Oscar unclothed with his pen; Neville Hacking-Cough, an English orgiast; and George, Oscar's boozy, condescending brother who can't decide whether he's in love with his own fiancee or her teenage daughter. (Aug.)