cover image Show and Tell

Show and Tell

Nelson George. Touchstone Books, $12 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-0443-9

The author of The Death of Rhythm and Blues and Hip Hop America both nominated for National Book Critics Circle Awards in nonfiction turns to fiction once again (One Woman Short, etc.), producing a titillating if unsatisfying novel of buppie angst. Set in Manhattan, it opens with a weekend of Godiva chocolates and gymnastic sex in a midtown hotel room and, despite its efforts at social commentary, never climbs much higher. Dean Chance is the producer of a TV talk show on the verge of change: in a quest for higher ratings, the host decides to forgo quality and feature racier program content. Dean's personal life is also about to undergo a major shakeup. Having just proposed to longtime girlfriend Millie Jackson, Dean meets Bee Cole, a take-charge woman in and out of bed, who seduces Dean while Millie is out of town on business. Furthermore, and unbeknownst to him, a fourth party is observing Dean's every move, perhaps even orchestrating his assignations. Meanwhile, in the cybersex world of e-mails and chat rooms, Millie is undergoing her own sexual reawakening. Will Dean and Millie's relationship survive when each learns of the other's escapades? George, also an Emmy-winning producer of HBO's The Chris Rock Show, provides an amusing, behind-the-scenes look at talk-show production, but the ""taboo"" sexual story line is s&m lite 9-1/2 Weeks territory, and about as provocative as a lava lamp. A glut of coincidences (""yet something about the face was familiar"") and clumsy similes (""emasculated tears, like those of an aging athlete realizing the game had passed him by"") drag things down even further. The book succeeds in doing what the fictional show within it promises: straddling the line between Springer and Oprah. (May)