Before your time? say the early '60's? Maureen Howard wrote two novels -- Not a Word About Nightingales and Bridgeport Bus -- which you will remember Of you read them) since she's a cauterizingly sharp writer. There are still no nightingales, no bluebirds around in this novel of sorts, made up of different scenes and shorter takes dealing with the members of the family of Laura Quinn, a writer, fortyish, ""Clean fingernails, decorous clothes, and trim framework of sexual insignificance."" Not that her husband, a quiet lawyer, demands more of her, but he remains in the background of her life along with her children. For the most part she is thinking about either her gifted brother Robert who died in Korea, having engaged in another kind of death struggle with their father -- or about Jim Cogan, a cousin's boy who comes to stay with them before he faces trial (drugs) -- a surly, attractive, vulnerable youngster. He represents the other side of that Irish lace curtain -- a gin-scented mother, a salesman father who's usually gambling and losing, or younger twins and their ""spooky"" solidarity -- a very engaging pair who mn away to spend a couple of nights in the model apartment of a new Bronx development, Co-op City. What Laura Quinn, or Maureen Howard, is saying is that once, before the middle years of regret spiked with remorse, there was something to flu in the chill empty spaces. Even in its deliberately random form, a real book -- how many come to mind? -- written with both intelligence and feeling.