Picks and Pans Review: Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party

updated 05/26/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Graham Greene

"If you have a soul you can't be satisfied," writes Greene in introducing Fischer, a toothpaste merchant of great wealth and even greater cruelty. Because of Fischer's contempt for his fellowman, he subjects rich acquaintances to outrageous humiliations and threats, such as announcing at a fete that he has planted a bomb in one of the party favors. Terry Southern wrote a disagreeable book called The Magic Christian with a similar theme in 1960. In Greene's hands, though, broad themes like man's greed or his skepticism about God become deft entertainment, packed with insights. To wit: "One can cease to be in love as easily as one can outgrow an author one admired as a boy"; "Happiness is like one of those islands far out in the Pacific which has been reported by sailors when it emerges from the haze where no cartographer has ever marked it." This novel goes far beyond Greene's spy tales. More daring, funnier and more dismaying than his other work, it proves that, when it comes to writing, Greene can do anything. (Simon & Schuster, $9.95)

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