For twenty years or more Gerald Warner Brace, a traditional humanist like Robert sanderling, his central character, has been writing novels which can be justifiably classed with the early one Sanderling wrote as ""perfectly conventional realism."" Movement yields to exposition, most of which consists of astute annotations on characters which have been chastened by life, and a milieu New England --which has yielded little to it. In a small college now. Sanderling of the English department has spent thirty years of rather commonplace obscurity, ivy beleaguered by most of the problems which beset the teacher in the modern world where arrogance and assertiveness overwhelm older values. Then too there's his marriage, at best a truce, to the decisive, destructive Harriet. Sanderling gives an adult of the various members of the department, from George Willett who hosts it with elegance to ider who subverts it, along with peripheral emotional experiences of his own. Ineffectuality resignation loss they're all there, along with a bona fide sympathy since Mr. Brace is a writer of quiet irony and firm integrity.