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POP LIT

In war and peace, two selfish seducers follow their blissfollow their bliss

''The Calligrapher" , By Edward Docx, Houghton Mifflin, 360 pp., $24

The Great Husband Hunt, By Laurie Graham, Warner, 400 pp., paperback, $14

Here are two novels that are very funny and somewhat serious too, although different in every other way. Edward Docx's ''The Calligrapher" is a delight, a witty, deftly written, honest comedy of manners. Laurie Graham's ''The Great Husband Hunt" is no romance, despite the title, but a broad satire of a very American sort of self-involvement.

''The Calligrapher" could be described as a romance of sorts, but that doesn't do justice to a novel that is as intelligent and sophisticated as it is light and funny. Jasper Jackson is the narrator, and the calligrapher of the title, a handsome, charming seducer who, at 29, claims to have had more women than he can count. ''I think I must have had some sort of physical relationship with pretty much all the women in the city," he boasts. The city is London, so his conquests, even if somewhat exaggerated, must be legion.

Jasper's latest calligraphy project involves transcribing the Songs and Sonnets of John Donne for an American media tycoon. He feels an immediate and powerful affinity for Donne, the 16th-century writer whose intricate metaphysical poetry explores the complexities of romantic and sexual love between men and women. But Jasper doesn't begin to understand the poems' ''plaguey subtlety" until he at last falls in love.

After a nasty breakup with Lucy, his longtime, and long-suffering, girlfriend, Jasper finds a mysterious woman sunbathing in his garden. ''What can I say? That she was extraordinarily beautiful? It will hardly do. That she looked like the sort of woman whom men do not dare dream of? That her brow was delectable, her nose delightful, her mouth delicious?" Jasper continues in this vein for several lines before getting to the point: ''She was a real hottie." The hottie is Madeleine, a free-spirited travel writer who proceeds to treat Jasper as offhandedly as he has treated the women in his life.

Docx smoothly integrates high culture and low, ranging from a game of pornographic Scrabble to metaphysical poetry and the fine points of the ancient art of calligraphy. Each chapter begins with a few lines of Donne's poetry that reflect Jasper's changing state of mind. His efforts to decipher and understand the poems add weight to this very entertaining novel. Jasper's energetic voice seldom fails to engage, as he holds forth on women, art, entertaining, contemporary standards. (''We live in the age of the lowest common denominator. And boy oh boy is it low.")

Poppy Minkel is the antiheroine of Laurie Graham's humorous fictional autobiography ''The Great Husband Hunt." Headstrong, heedless, selfish, Poppy barrels mindlessly through the 20th century, bent on having fun. She should be thoroughly dislikable, but she's not. She's funny. She could have been created by Patrick Dennis, a little bit Auntie Mame, a little bit Belle Poitrine. Poppy is a woman caught up in larger events, willfully unaware of anything that doesn't directly affect her. World War I is an opportunity to get out from under her mother's thumb and meet boys. The Great Depression doesn't touch her. World War II is inconvenient because she's compelled to leave Paris before the Germans march in, not to mention that the flight to Bermuda is a nightmare, with so many people crowding the bar.

Poppy's narrative begins in 1912, when her father, founder of Minkel's Mighty Fine Mustard, goes down with the Titanic. Poppy, 15 and ''Jewish, to just the right degree," is being groomed by her mother and aunt to catch a husband. Poppy isn't sure she wants to catch one. Fortunately for her, World War I breaks out and she is able to throw herself into work with the Red Cross. At 21, Poppy takes a job selling ties at Macy's. ''My mustard millions were all well and good, but I felt the need to get out more and mix with different types of people." One of these types is Gilbert Catchings, a haiku-composing layabout who wastes no time laying claim to Poppy and her millions with a proposal of marriage. They wed and decamp to Paris, where Poppy throws herself into the expatriate scene, shakes free of Gilbert, and eventually marries her second husband, Reggie Merrick, a minor English nobleman very distantly related to the British royal family. Along the way, Poppy gives birth to two daughters, one by each husband, and hands them over to her sister in New York.

Poppy presses on, with never a twinge of self-doubt. She designs clothing, flies an airplane, opens an art gallery. Her only real friend through the years is her stepbrother Murray, who has learned to humor her, and does so to the very end. ''I said to Murray, 'Personally, I'm an open-minded kind of person.'

' ''You are,' he said. 'Minds probably don't come any opener.' "

Diane White writes every month about new light and popular fiction.

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