Those who have read Dan Jacobson's novels through the years will remember them as soundly representational -- prosaic in the best or realistic sense -- of Jewish life in South Africa and England. This book is very different, suggesting rather than itemizing the interior world of obsession without ever giving up its leasehold on the everyday. So that while strange circumstances attend the facts of Timothy's conception and birth, what could be more commonplace than his parents or the site of his nativity -- the news agent's shop where his mother works. But before long the solitary child is able to effect ""palpable transformations. Proven exceptions,"" and he becomes brick or paper or soap or even the iron tablets prescribed to counteract his seeming inattentiveness. He becomes everyone and everything except ""god"" whom he fails to bring into being. Although there are other people, only two will matter to him -- his mother who dies (a strong scene); and the girl Susie who was a childhood playmate, Susie who is his Susie siren, his ""Susie-sky,"" his ""Susiestillness""--before he is sent off to the clinic of a Dr. Wuchs where Timothy will record his split-level life. Throughout Jacobson phases in and out of the ""palpable transformations"" of madness and its acrid alchemy is everywhere along with bitter, contemporary reverberations. ""You just don't want to be ordinary."" ""Ach, who can be so lucky nowadays.