Picks and Pans Review: Second Marriage

updated 10/08/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/08/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Frederick Barthelme

The author, younger brother of Donald Barthelme, wrote a volume of short stories, Moon Deluxe, published last year. They were a delight—as is this, his first novel. It's set in the same world as Barthelme's stories, one of apartment complexes and neighborhoods in an unidentified city in the "New South" where everyone knows what everyone is doing with everyone else. The novel's protagonist is Henry, a graphic artist, and most of his story is told in superb, wry dialogue. When his ex-wife moves in with him and his current wife, Henry says, "We'll be a domestic-unit-of-the-eighties." A neighbor explains why he can't take off his shoes: "Don't like socks. Never have, never will. They're too small. Too tight. Strangle the feet. Socks turn 'em white and get these red marks all over 'em. No sir." A woman says of a motel pool, "I hate this water. They put junk in to kill everybody's germs. It'll eat the skin right off your face. I wouldn't go in there if you paid me." When someone asks the hero if he has a family, he says, "Four brothers and two ex-wives. And about half a daughter." And he's telling the truth. Henry is an amazingly passive fellow. His women do most of the talking and all of the seducing. It's just like real life. (Simon and Schuster, $15.95)

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