This energetic, often intelligent novel about a four-way marriage has as much sleight-of-hand as the earlier Nabokov but avoids the master's aestheticism. Indeed, Vladimir himself receives some pinching satire as a lecherous faculty novelist named Helmbart (read Humbert Humbert) who can't keep his fingers off the ladies' nether attractions. Somehow, the story is spelled out without a single banality in its description, characterization or, best, in the strikingly sharp and inventive dialogue. These people really talk. The four lovers, or as the narrator's wife says, fuckers, are a novelist who is writing what's to be his fifth unsuccessful historical novel; his cowish Viennese wife Utchka (it means calf); Severin Winter, an apish wrestling coach and German teacher, also Viennese; and his wife Edith, an art historian turned novelist. Much is predictable but not the big scenes which take place in the university swimming pool at midnight or in a terrifyingly glass-splintered bathtub. Toward the end the narrator, separated from Utchka and his sons, is discovered by Edith at his breakfast table in his wife's slip -- a sad comic moment. Hardly spiritual, but serious and ebullient -- with some elemental symbolism for those looking for a little more.