Paperback Picks -- Our picks for the week of March 27, 1992 including ''Body,'' ''Voices in the Mirror,'' ''Maps to Anywhere,'' ''The Old Contemptibles,'' ''Birdy''

A Model World and Other Stories

BODY Harry Crews This sweaty novel ; about a female bodybuilding championship gone amuck in Miami features Crews’ first female protagonist, Shereel Dupont. A Southern hick (née Dorothy Turnipseed) whose trainer transforms her into a 124-pound equalizer, Dupont is a sure bet for the Ms. Cosmos title — until her gun-toting redneck family arrives at the contest and, well, distracts her. A cartoonish comedy with a grisly ending. B+

VOICES IN THE MIRROR Gordon Parks If Parks’ list of achievements as a trailblazing photographer, film director, and composer weren’t so well documented, it would be tempting to mistake his autobiography for fiction: the picaresque journey of a black Everyman through 20th-century America. A-

THICKER THAN WATER Kathryn Harrison In her first novel, Harrison draws blood as she sifts through the shards of a woman’s memory. What appears at first to be a closely observed childhood memoir eventually reveals itself to be a devastating account of innocence lost. The intimate cruelties excavated here are especially remarkable for their failure to banish the longing and love between a mother and a daughter. A

A MODEL WORLD AND OTHER STORIES Michael Chabon In his best-selling first novel, 1988’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon created a luminous account of the raptures, confusions, and merry pranks of yuppies in love. In A Model World he illuminates much of the same emotional territory with the same natural-as-sunshine artistry. A

SERIOUS PLEASURES: THE LIFE OF STEPHEN TENNANT Philip Hoare The apparent model for Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Stephen Tennant counted E.M. Forster, Willa Cather, Vita Sackville-West, and Cecil Beaton among his friends. This biography is juicy, eccentric fun — everything PBS kept backstage. A-

MAPS TO ANYWHERE Bernard Cooper Cooper may be the freshest nonfiction voice since Joan Didion slouched toward Bethlehem. No mere essay collection, Map is a meditation on an American life in which the author invests the things he writes about (baked potatoes, suburban homes, game shows) with enough feeling to make them emblems of innocence lost. A

THE OLD CONTEMPTIBLES Martha Grimes Grimes’ best- selling mysteries fall somewhere between the blandness of Mary Higgins Clark and the dark melancholy of P.D. James. This tale of a Scotland Yard inspector who falls for a widow (who is also his suspect in a murder investigation) is one of the murky good ones. Wonderful weird characters. B

BIRDY William Wharton Birdy is a strange boy who loves canaries. Al’s a hotheaded tough guy. You may think this novel of eccentric friendship set against the background of World War II too sweet-sounding to lug back to your nest. But, as this reissue reminds us, it’s a gentle, dreamy flight. Even hard hearts can fasten their seat belts. A

A Model World and Other Stories
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