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People will come and go as people do. Some will return. Others will not. We observe the blood rules of life here, not the sterile patterns of narrative."" If that sort of slick-pretentious-apologetic opening statement from an anti-hero makes you want to head for the nearest exit, your instincts are in good working order. The speaker is 28-year-old Duffy Odin, an American in Paris who looks Just Like Humphrey Bogart--which gets him acting jobs in foreign flicks so he can pay the bills while trying to paint. As Duffy heads back to the States for a visit, Kennedy gives him just enough picturesque friends and relationships to fill up a book: a poor old flame in Paris, a rich old flame in New York, a pro-baseball buddy, a married Swedish actress happily but problematically pregnant by him, a swinish best friend who's cheating on his Japanese wife, a New England father who refuses to see him (because Duffy publicly exposed Episcopal Dad as a converted Jew), and assorted show-biz and art-world uglies. What Kennedy doesn't give Duffy is anything approaching a breathing center; his studied alienation is as numbing for us as it is for him, so there's no cause for concern when the Swedish actress dumps him, when his father stares right through him, or when--is it supposed to be Duffy's fault?--the betrayed Japanese wife slays husband and self in Duffy's borrowed N.Y. apartment. The novel ends with Duffy faking suicide to create (like his father!) a new self--not a bad idea considering, but too late to save an identity-crisis log that's filled with classily readable writing, acutely overheard dialogue, and thundering emptiness.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1977
Publisher: Viking