The World is Not a Wedding

These three books are written in puzzled indignation at the prospect of the ominous, unchartable wilderness of life in our times. If they don’t come to any terms with it, they do at any rate break into occasional fits of a tonic gallows humor. There are no rewards of plot, …

Bad Characters

When a woman writes economically there is likely to be a wanton comparison to Jane Austen. The authors of both books under review have received this accolade, in one case at least with preposterous irrelevance. Considering that Jane Austen belongs to a world as remote as Lady Murasaki’s, the comparison …

Good Housekeeping

Shirley Ann Grau is a Southern woman writer who has neither the limitations nor the gifts of the great ones of an earlier generation. Her time scale in this ambitious novel (a hundred and fifty years) and her theme (race relations) burst the limits of the narrowly observed domestic moment …

Pop Art

This is a fashionably contrived novel (first person accounts from two different points of view) with a durably titillating subject (beauty imprisoned by beast), fortified with well-dropped OK names. It is not compelling reading, as they say—I would willingly have quit before the halfway mark—but on the other hand, it …

Needles & Pins

Are short stories the embryos of unwritten novels, or are they things in themselves? The great ones—and the greatest are surely Chekhov’s—seem to be saying all that need be said; one does not feel that a skeleton is going around in an overcoat, having forgotten to put on its suit …

Oxford Gothic

Symbolic titles are often a bother, but lately there have been some very helpful ones. One knows what one’s in for, certainly, when a book is called Ship of Fools, and in case The Centaur should raise doubts, that book supplies a glossary. Iris Murdoch’s seventh novel, The Unicorn, follows …