Wiser (The Wolf is Not Native to the South of France, 1978; Disappearances, 1980) usually writes a very loosely woven novel; here, he's added the tradition of the picaresque--the result being a kind of literary travelogue with intermittent strobes of emotion. At the start, the book's narrator is working at a Florida asylum, a male attendant overseeing patients no crazier than his withdrawn schizoid wife (whose psychologist recommended the job). One patient, a poet, is of particular interest to the narrator--and when the Poet commits suicide, the narrator is catapulted into, as it were, the other man's life. He leaves the asylum, tracks down (and sleeps with) the Poet's ex-wife, even journeys to Belfast to take a teaching position that the Poet had been slated for. After Belfast--much poetry-talk, sex, drink, and religious acrimony--narrator goes to France with a rich woman who blackmails him into serving as her ghostwriter on an autobiography. And then, that net evaded, he's on his way to Miami Beach as a night-clerk at a fourth-rate hotel. Only in this last section, which concerns itself with child-abuse by a guest at the hotel, does Wiser put the book into gear--story-progression locks with pathos. Everywhere else, though, it's a book of only layers, no propulsion, all Augie, no march. Disappointing.