Although his good chaps are simplistic stereotypes, Hassler is one of those convivial small-screen satirists--the lighter moments of L'Heureux and McInerny spring to mind--who can be hilariously effective when burlesquing the fathead-ery of tiny bureaucracies, in this case a Minnesota high school of stunning mediocrity. Among the buffoons suffered by easygoing (if wary) Miles Pruitt, teacher of English: a closed-circuit principal who interprets scripture from the Faculty Handbook on such matters, for example, as teacher absences (""We play funerals by ear, Pruitt""); the immobile superintendent, whose marathon autobiographical monologues send Miles gratefully drifting down rivers of timeless ennui; an athletic coach, in a permanent cloud of rage; a fornicating town dentist whose happy hour begins in late morning; and an impressive state trooper--a mega-man with a ""collage"" of decorations. But then there is Agatha McGee, Miles' friend and landlady, a familiar model of yesteryear--the spinster teacher severe in her insistence on all the old (and here, golden) proprieties. In the novel's one week, Miles loses a tooth most horribly, attends a faculty saturnalia, becomes involved with the (unconvincing) problems of a student victim of poverty and family madness--and then a glum-to-genial siege of the high school by 500 members of the Chippewa nation. But at the last--alas--Miles is abruptly, arbitrarily killed, presumably to point up Hassler's lesson for the day: that goodness and sin walk together. On the whole, an engaging first novel--when it isn't blurring its images of women or tagging morals onto its men.