Swan's book of stories, On The Edge of the Desert (1979), was roaming enough to make a reader dizzy. Here, in a novel, the same flitting quality--but also an overstuffedness of style--is alas part and parcel again. Alta is a 47-year-old ex-trapeze artist married too many years to faithless Dusty, the owner of a two-bit traveling carnival that tours the Southwest. Childless, occasionally adulterous herself, Alta hangs in there with Dusty for lack of better opportunities. Dusty is given to wild redemptive schemes, latest of which is when he all but buys a stripper named Grace (her act involves snakes) that he's sure will turn his luck around. In addition to the herpetological Grace, there are in this hapless shuffling troop rite requisite midget and giant, as well as sundry characters Swan deposits there for their various mythological resonances. (The title sets you right from the start.) Most everything that occurs--Grace almost starring in a snuff-film; snakebite deaths; ceremonial revels--seems occasioned less by the requirements of story than by the opportunities they afford for ""art-prose."" The overwriting here is copious and dialogue groans under significance. ""'There's the mailman,' Billy said, 'making a little shiny trail through it all, the way a slug does on an early morning romp through the garden--and that's the only thing right now connecting it all together.' ""Amen. Pretentious, hollow novelizing.