The young author of By the North Gate, a short story collection published last year, releases her considerable talents, in a dark tale of an unholy alliance, a maelstrom of cruelty and passion. Miss Oates has the skill to tackle an outrageous and terrible theme -- the search for self in the depth of evil and corruption, with a cool assurance and brilliant control of sequence. Born angry, auto racer Shar had left the insanity of his father, his own dreams of destruction, to live without emotion, without ties, without meaning. When Karen, at seventeen, left her father's house and followed him, Shar's desire for destruction revived, and in the calm center of Karen's apparent passivity, he forced his hatred and rage. Yet Shar, in spite of his savage assaults, desertions and physical cruelty, is the conquered one; and is to drive himself to death on the track as he had driven himself to suicidal wholeness into the wall of Karen's contempt. Karen returns to her family, after a term in a mental institution with questions-- is she responsible for Shar's death and her own life? Is it insane to look for meaning in life, or insane not to? In the dusty ring of the track there is no exit in this round of the damned. strong stuff, powerful and unpleasant. This is an author to watch.