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THE FIERY PANTHEON

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THE FIERY PANTHEON Nancy Lemann (Scribner, $22) At 28, Grace Stewart considers herself ”a prehistoric fossil buried in an antiquated stratum of the earth’s core.” She’s engaged to marry a perfect Southern gentleman, but a ”crazed young man” threatens to steal her heart. Grace’s romantic passivity slackens the pace of this novel of manners, and her Old South patriarchal preoccupations make her a relic in more ways than one. But Lemann’s New Orleans aristocrats are hilarious, and her writing — at once wry and sumptuous — will glue you to your chair with the intoxicating effect of a mint julep on a sultry summer day. B+