Readers, I don't know how many of you have lived for years"" and Mr. Salamanca's ""dear"" readers, ""gentle"" readers, and even putatively ""loyal"" readers will hardly have escaped the passage of time before they reach the end of some 500 pages of lambent prose. However charmed they may be by verbena, Fragonard and Wedgwood bisque. The story reduces to a line or more. Michael, a virtually chaste young man who works for the Library of Congress, meets Margaret ""in all the charm and grace of her young womanhood"" including a withered arm. He marries his ""broken-winged dove"" only to become sexually restless twelve years later and they take a restorative trip to the Riviera where he arranges French lessons with a young man for Margaret so that he can be free to meet Gwynyth, a rather good sort. The long-delayed confrontation comes as no Bombe Surprise and has been muffled in Mr. Salamanca's analgesic lyricism: ""we lay with our hands loosely clutched together, staring through our closed, sun-drenched eyelids into a crimson infinity, recovering our breath with long, lingering, narcotic drafts of jasmine-scented air, tremblingly inhaled and gaspingly expelled, with a sound almost of horror."" Like ugh?