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Opening lines from recently published books: Week of Oct. 29, 1999

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”In early June, just as Barton Gubelmann, the grand first lady of Palm Beach’s Old Guard, was explaining how Palm Beach society works, the phone rang. ‘Oh, s—-. Let the maid take it,’ the eighty-year-old scion said in a gravelly voice. Behind her, beyond the lily ponds and the burgeoning sea-grape trees, the Atlantic glistened.” From The Season: Inside Palm Beach and America’s Richest Society (HarperCollins, $26), by RONALD KESSLER

”Marzala Rawls Spencer prowled the living room. With each step, the shag carpet bristled. The upholstery crackled when she brushed against the furniture. Each time she rounded the room, the pinned choir robe slung over the chair reached out, electric, clinging to the shivering hairs on her arm.” From Toni Cade Bambara’s novel Those Bones Are Not My Child (Pantheon, $27.50)