Mr. Slavitt, who is also a poet and Henry Sutton (he'll tell you about his other guises if you read this closely enough), plays a kind of literary solitaire in which nothing really happens as in the guise of Jerome Carpenter he goes to a literary Arts Festival to give a reading. When he's not poetizing -- during the course of this he is improvising a new oeuvre -- he's playing anagrams, as he pens, pends, spends, upends and suspends other activities (a little sex that really doesn't count). That's the thing about poetry -- it's ""never urgent"" -- and this is the problem the book never shakes. Jerome goes on diddling and fiddling with words and letters, borrowing here (a poem from someone else), referring there (to all of his peer group past and present) and getting nowhere -- like his friend and fellow poet John Royle, who dies at the end. All of this wordplay is, as it always is, a kind of virtuosity and indulgence which can hardly succeed as a novel but promotes other permutations since the eye is arrested here while the mind goes on to rap, crap, scrap.