May 27, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Publishing can be a dog-eat-dog world, and nobody knows that better than Barbara Graham, the author of Women Who Run With the Poodles. In her takeoff on Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ best-selling Women Who Run With the Wolves, Graham brilliantly parodies the women’s ”improvement” tomes that bloat bookstore shelves. ”I’m just poking fun at the hyper-earnestness of the healing and personal-growth world,” says Graham. ”I think that women are vulnerable to feeling inadequate and that there is always something wrong with them.” She believes it’s okay for women to honor their mood swings and have some fun-to lope with poodles, so to speak. (After all, Graham points out, the curly- haired canines are descended from wolves. ”It’s not that they’ve lost the old hunting and retrieving instinct,” she explains. ”It’s that they prefer to do their hunting and retrieving in Saks and Bloomingdale’s.”)

Estes, however, did not find the idea of Graham’s book amusing. When she heard about its impending publication, she barked territorial foul to Harper San Francisco, Graham’s publisher. Estes was supported by other ”gender” writers, like Robert Bly, who said, ”These adolescent parasites, disguised as adult satirists, don’t really read the books they trivialize. They’re like fleas on a dog.” (No pun intended.)

Rather than neuter her work, as Harper San Francisco wanted her to do, Graham fled to Avon Books. ”I was completely blown away by this New Age fascism,” she says. ”The recovery movement has an enormous amount to offer. I just think that the addiction to changing everything (in your life) allows little time to pause and have fun.” Women Who Run With the Poodles is so much fun it’ll be dog-eared in no time.

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