An acrid, often amusing, occasionally tiresome probing of a rather squashy segment of New York City's population and also an examination of the problem of nonconformity in contemporary society- a novel sounding some telling notes which unfortunately evaporate into the thin upper air of attenuated symbolism. Amiable Edward Massine, thirtyish, member of a dim, brittle family group, whose coordinating focal points seem to be weddings and preserving life in aged and decrepit dogs, cushions himself against the twentieth century by languidly vegetating in one of his two New York houses and renting rooms therein. Eluding in an unhurried, amorphous fashion the martial call of steady work and marriage, Edward pursues his restlessness all around the town and to the family farm in the country. Absorbed in the pain and vague pleasures of his family and a motley crew of Fifth Avenue and flophouse friends, Edward drifts until his girl, Margot, tired of waiting for Edward, marries another man. Left without a woman, Edward searches until the lack is supplied and marries actress Lydia, exchanging his foggy solitude for a new, big dream. The author has drawn the twentieth century pressures so tightly around her hero's neck that Edward's plaintive squeaks of irritation have an acute validity, although the eleventh hour hysteria of the characters' speech gives the book an airless unreality.