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The double life of the writer-the doggedly functional outer persona surrounding the neurotic inner core-comes through in this sparkling if scattershot collection from New York's gonzo scribe. In his forays into lifestyle journalism, Ames (Wake Up, Sir) is perennially out of place whether among scary teens at a suburban gothic fest or vapid club hoppers in Manhattan's glitzy meatpacking district. He's ill at ease just being himself in memoiristic essays, from a European travelogue to an account of recent boxing stunts. His fictional alter egos are similarly out of their comfort zones; in the sly anti-noir "Bored to Death," an Amesian writer poses as a PI and flounders when the lark becomes too real. As always, Ames's own bodily functions, baldness and angst take center stage-"Am I darker than Marilyn Manson?" he broods in a profile of the goth pied piper-along with his graphic sex scenes, which play out as detached procedurals in which he self-consciously monitors his partners for signs of orgasm This miscellany contains some weak items-college diary entries?-dredged out of a bottom drawer. But at his best, Ames still beguiles with his offbeat, defiantly hangdog sensibility. Photos. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.