January 26, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup

Current Status
In Season
Susan Orlean
Pop Culture, Nonfiction, Coffee Table
We gave it an A-

Tired of reading predictable pieces about flavor-of-the-month actresses? Then pick up Orlean’s collection of 20 profiles, culled mainly from The New Yorker, of engaging people — Spain’s first woman matador, a boisterous bevy of Maui surfer girls, and one moody show dog named Biff. Rather than weigh her words down with judgment (though she gives plenty of rope to pop star Tiffany and Yo! MTV Raps‘ Fab Five Freddy), Orlean (The Orchid Thief) depends on her keen eyes and ears. Damned if we learn a thing about what the author feels or values or presumes. It’s fallen Hollywood agent Sue Mengers or Peter Benfaremo, the Lemon Ice King of Corona, who we come to know. And that’s exactly why her profiles are among the best in the business. A-

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