Picks and Pans Review: Preparations for the Ascent

updated 05/05/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/05/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Gilbert Rogin

Two men in a bookstore talk about the proliferation of words and books, and one recalls a story about a prisoner who had nothing to write on except the pages of a book, so he wrote a novel in the spaces between the lines. The men then wonder if the prisoner had to use his blood for ink. "How much blood do you think it would take to write a decent-size book? ...More than the five quarts in the human body?" This novel, appropriately, reads as if it were written in the author's blood. The central figure is a New Yorker, Jewish, angst-ridden, separated from his "semi-ex-wife"—they live in the same building, and he walks her dog. She still has around her an alcoholic earlier husband, while he has an ongoing affair with a woman he calls the Human Dynamo. Rogin's hero is a cousin of those brilliant, unhappy Philip Roth males, saddled with guilt and an inept psychiatrist. The mood is somber, the events tragic, but there are funny moments, and the writing is dazzling. Rogin, 50, a separated New Yorker himself, is managing editor of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. (Random House, $8.95)

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