October 07, 1985 12:00 PM

by Carole Bayer Sager

Sager is certainly qualified to be a pop novelist in one respect: She can drop names with the best of them. She is a thriving songwriter—Nobody Does It Better, Come in From the Rain and Don’t Cry Out Loud are among the tunes she has co-written—and a semi-celebrity herself who is also Mrs. Burt Bacharach. So she can mention Johnny Carson, Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor and Phil Donahue without batting one of those huge eyelashes of hers. This first novel is full of that kind of cachet by association, and the plot is chic enough too. It’s about a woman who writes books telling daughters how to avoid being burdened by their relationships with their mothers. The author and her own mother, of course, hardly speak to each other until the mother is diagnosed as having a fatal illness. Extravagant Gestures is reminiscent of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, except that Sager’s male characters are more wimpy than ruthless. Moreover, while Sager can put words together in succession, neither her ideas nor her sentence structure bear much weight: “Like clothing when sent to a bad cleaner, she’d seen too many of her friends shrink behind their men in an attempt not to overpower them.” To her credit, Sager does not fall back on that standard Hollywood writer’s crutch: tossing in a sex scene every five pages or so. What she does toss in is just too slight, though. It’s as if someone came up and asked her if she knew how to write fiction and she said, “Hum a few bars and I’ll fake it.” (Arbor, $16.95)

You May Like