A lunatic collage, emblematic of the chaos of ideas and influences out of which novels emerge, dominates this irritatingly uneven one by the author of Metaphysics in the Midwest (1988) and The Idea of Home (1993). It recounts the confusions experienced by a nameless narrator whose work-in-progress is compounded of elements adopted from Hugo's Les MisÇrables, the story of the workers' commune that briefly flourished in St. Louis in 1877 as retold for him by his wife May, a.k.a. Siva (the Hindu goddess), also (or does she only fantasize this?) an actress in pornographic films. It's infrequently funny and frequently obscure, and an overabundance of toilet humor and lame social satire makes an exhausting journey of this brief tale's illustration of what seems its central claim: that ``the individual dirty secret [is] just the same as universal tragic destiny.''