In the Tragic Comedians Professor Hall selects seven English novelists whose works exemplify various aspects of modern day socio-cultural instability in a tragi-comic mode. The professor does so with a good deal of crisp, clear commentary; indeed, at his cleverest, there are times when he's almost as entertaining as the passages under discussion. But somehow, taken all in all, a curious lack of stimulation and a slackness of approach ultimately slow down the impact; further, most of the essays are not extensive enough. Be that as it many, the examination covers Foster's domesticated romanticism, Huxley's funnybone nihilism, Waugh's upperclass burlesques, Carys's picaresque male and female rouges, and the odd balls of Henry Green who pepper an existentialist paradox: people who oughtn't to be enjoying life are and vice versa. Finally, there's Anthony Powell's ""winding, weighing-the-evidence"" voice and the slow-motion, rerun of the past as Nick Jenkins journeys through the fauna of London class and classlessness, along with the less well known L. P. Hartley. These last treatments are the best in a good guide to English ""absurdity"", the debunking of myth-making, whether personal or public, and the continuing carnival complexities of change and counter-change.