Mr. Appleby's Skate, an equivocal novel surfacing over the thin ice of present-day despair, youthful and direct in its tone of jagged intensity, comes up with a lot of statements without ever really making one: viz. Skate's ""Every man has an intimate friend, one who knows almost everything, and yet nothing about him. Every man has himself."" The ambivalent himself is seen through the eyes of his oldest friend from the time when they grew up together in an orphanage where Skate first manifested his magnetic talent for leadership until the night he discovered the real facts about his parents' death (a murder-suicide). Going on to the university, he quickly dropped out, and withdrawn, angry, tore down ""idols and icons"" and also was indirectly responsible for the death of his girl. Skate spends the next three years thinking about the more important intangibles all alone in a cabin in the mountains -- returns to the world to start a small non-church religious group only to make himself vulnerable to suspicion and attack. Appleby's flawed, existential young man, swivelling between self-sufficiency and self-destruction, sort of seems to prove Camus' doubt ""Can one be a saint without God?"" if Skate is truly following a contemporary call. All part of the curiosity he exerts since you're never sure whether he's really looking up or at his own navel.