A minimalist writer's revenge on the institution of marriage--in a squalid, hysterical enactment of three couples' grossly empty domestic lives. Sally and Robert, ex-hippies living in a rotting farmhouse in rural North Carolina, seem happy, but they have to put up with visits to and from their respective parents, especially Sally's, who are, or seem, mad as hatters. Margaret and Ervin have been feuding for 15 years--locking each other in bathrooms, routinely shouting, ""Shut up, bitch!"" or ""bastard!"", dragging each other around by the hair while their suburban neighbors look on, bemused. Robert's parents are no prize, either: over shared meals, they like to insult Sally, who's a ""goy,"" and urge Robert to divorce her. Well, soon things get worse: Robert comes upon Sally's journal lying open-faced on a clothes hamper, reads it, and discovers that he's not her first or second lover, as he had thought; as he puts it, he's ""number 38!"" When Sally tries to explain that she was a premarital nymphomaniac because of an adolescent gynecological ""examination"" conducted by Margaret and Ervin to determine whether or not she was a virgin, Robert stomps out and spends the night with a 16-year-old whore. He also calls his parents, who head for the farmhouse. Margaret and Ervin are heading there, too--Margaret has discovered that Ervin has been contemplating an affair with a post-office co-worker, and she is hunting him down before he can win the sympathy of Sally. Meanwhile, Sally, shivering and sobbing, has had enough: While Roberts' parents look on, gape-mouthed, she confronts Margaret and Eryin with every psychosexual atrocity they ever performed on each other or her. This has a tonic effect on Margaret and Err, and also on Robert's parents and Robert. But in an epilogue, Robert still hasn't risen above being ""number 38."" In fact--he's starting to act a lot like Ervin. If vivid descriptions of sagging flesh, flatulence, venomousness and characterless domestic uproar aren't your style, you can safely let this mean first novel slide.