Mr. Farrell writes predictably ""about the pain, about the careful cruelty of life"" in an i-dotted portrait of Bill Martin, an editor who knows that he's not much more than an ""intelligent drudge."" He watches his friend, a once brilliant and best-selling author, slip away into alcoholism. And Bill's personal life deteriorates after his wife's pregnancy, puerperal fever and the birth of a baby with clubbed feet. An agonizingly long medical treatment proves ineffectual and after many months, dragging out to hopeless despair, the baby proves to be irreversibly retarded. Perhaps there will be some reprieve after they turn it over to a caretaker. . . . Once again a verbatim transcript and the characters achieve a certain substance if you can bear with the overload of melancholy.