Playwright Marsigli’s debut novel is an attempt at a wry Borgesian fantasy that demonstrates how fine the line is in literature between the fantastic, which can be enchanting, and the merely silly and embarrassing, which can—t. The premise is that Ivain La Baille, a Latin scholar who has written (but not published) a couple of novels about Julius Caesar, dies at the age of 29 and comes back to Earth ten years later to see if he’s achieved fame. On top of this absurdity Marsigli too generously piles on other unlikely absurdities. The ghost’s nom de guerre will be Elliab, for instance, his old name in reverse. From a portentous mystagogue residing in Euro-Disneyland (“there was an air of ancient memories about both the woman and the chair she was sitting in”), he receives the script of his return to Earth on a Mac floppy disk. During the course of his adventures, he encounters the corpse of his old cook, who is hanging around to find out what will happen to her recipes for pumpkin pie and salmon mousse. Arbitrary and tedious, the novel is the more annoying for the generally unguarded self- absorption of its narrative voice: “Later on, he would describe these events as circles within circles, and himself as the hands on a clock that turn round and round as long as the spring is wound up.” The far-fetched setup is matched by the loopiness of the payoff, in which La Baille’s unpublished manuscript turns up in a display case in the Butler Library at Columbia University, along with the cook’s recipes. Nearby, the ghosts of great writers stand around and shmooze—although not, notably, about how to prepare salmon mousse.