A peculiar -- and peculiarly careless -- little mystical fable that gives the impression, correct or not, of having been dashed off in one of the author's odd moments. The gifts so apparent in Yanovsky's virtuoso Of Light and Sounding Brass -- his tremendously evocative power of description, his vision of the absurdity, passion and pain that drive the questions of metaphysics -- are here only pale shadows; the potential faults of that earlier novel -- inconsequentiality, directionlessness, a certain bored and blase tone that was supposed to characterize the world-weary emigre narrator but occasionally threatened to infect the book -- here run rampant. We have another Russian emigre, Guillaume, who finds himself incomprehensibly bereft and adrift at the death of his uncle -- not consciously, but waking up at 3 A.M. crying and sobbing, preoccupied with the truly affecting question, ""Where is he now?"" ""Nowhere."" ""Where is nowhere?"" (So far the reader is truly affected, though the self-deprecating, self-disliking tone tries hard to dissuade him.) Guillaume feels he is not ready to accept death because he has not really lived. In this state, he drifts into contact with a mystical commune, the Third Hemisphere, whose leader or ""Mediator"" -- an inhuman, massive female figure who looks like she is made out of red clay -- teaches how to make contact with intelligences in other ""hemispheres"" in preparation for lives to come. On the Hemisphere's tropical island, Guillaume has to do with neurotics, health nuts, nice ladies, four Mongolian shamans, two Slavic lesbians, a large native population, a hunchback named Achilles, and a blatantly mythic bull named Big Ben who roams the island at will threatening men, women and children. A rare charge tickers here; otherwise it's silly, refusing to cohere either in the direction of urgency or of parody.