Snyder (A Soldier's Disgrace, 1987, etc.) loses more than a job when he gets his walking papers from the university; his entire world shatters. Here, he mulls over his days of ruin and renaissance with an honesty that aches. Life had been good for Snyder before the fall: football scholarship, fat fellowships, the publication of several well-received books, then a gratifying job teaching English at Colgate, a fine family of three children. Out of the blue, Colgate upped and fired him. Surprise! Well, no problem, Snyder would simply find another teaching position, right? That was not to be, and his self-confidence faded fast. Snyder does a good job of dissecting the American Dream, how ``the little trap doors and hinges in her act'' revealed themselves quickly as his savings disappeared, how he slid down the slippery slope of self-pity, then crashed and burned in anger and fear. He pretty much bottoms out when he considers selling the baby he is convinced his wife is carrying. But the most powerful, as opposed to harrowing, material is found in the pitiful incidentals of his everyday life on the dole: how he would go to Sears to look at tires to clear his head; buy presents for his kids to bolster his esteem (his wife returned them); his obsession with budgets, as if in their numbers he would find some magic formula instead of diminishing reserves. It is all so immediate, so convincing, that it makes you cringe; it's terrifyingly easy to see yourself in Snyder's shoes. When he does finally get a break, readers will feel almost as relieved as Snyder did. Through the mill emerges a new Snyder, a better Snyder, his tale a cautionary one, as gruesomely captivating as a traffic accident.