The narrator is a writer (speaking presumably about himself) who summered as boy by the ocean, hated the army, was divorced, paid alimony and child support and then was no longer required to, and has had a succession of affairs--one with great but unsuccessful love involved--with younger women. In this life, Simmons (Powdered Eggs) turns every thought into a triple play: l) memories of the past that 2) explain present behavior and 3) help him to guess at the future. So: ""Some years after the end of his marriage he fell in love. The experience so loosened his feelings that he hoped to write warmly of people, but he still has pity only for himself and a strong sense of grievance against others, Eventually he will understand that most people have as hard a time in life as he. He will try to make literature from this understanding, but he will not be able to."" This specific, cadenced, and baleful tone is applied to religion, numbers, the feel of fabric (""Cotton was friendly to him, wool was not""), regrets, parents, doctors, movies, making things (""When a table came out well he sometimes sat up drinking, waiting for the varnish to dry, and wished his father were alive to see it""), homosexuals, charity, being liked, jokes, and Jews. The stark recitative-form frequently edges poignance into pain, gives even the most intimate details of the man's life a decorous distance and chill. It's an amazingly depressing book, on the order of a boiled-down Something Happened; like the Heller, corrosively honest, not really likable, yet hard to shake free of long after you've finished and closed it.