February 21, 1994 12:00 PM

by Regina Barreca

Title notwithstanding, Barreca is too smart and funny to do any serious man-bashing in this “demystification” of marriage, men and romance.

Neither, however, does she acknowledge the obvious corollary to the axiom that there are no perfect husbands: There are no perfect wives.

The absence of any real insight into women is true even though the author devotes much of her book to a routine exposition of feminist issues. (Her theories are along the lines of “A woman is left to decide whether it’s better to end up with flowers and candy instead of respect and a renewed sense of her abilities or with nothing at all.”)

While Barreca relies on such dubious sources of wisdom as Fran Lebowitz, Nora Ephron and the movie Thelma & Louise, she also hits on such provocative headings as “Why Romance Is Sometimes Like Nuclear Waste,” “Why There Is No ‘Grooms’ Magazine” and “Why Is God Always a Bachelor?”

The editing is sloppy: “kneading” comes out “kneeding,” “Amtrak is rendered as “Amtrack,” Bonnie Tyler’s 1984 song “Holding Out for a Hero” gets mislabeled as “I Need a Hero” and the distinction between “like” and “as if” is frequently overlooked.

Still, Barreca, the author of They Used to Call Me Snow White But…I Drifted, has written an often fascinating if adversarial book. Its empathetic tone should make it palatable even to the men it dissects. But it will probably appeal more to women, who might be likely to see it as a useful guidebook aimed at what to avoid. (Harmony, $20)

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