A university novel about an unnamed (and even unlocated) college town, Gardens at first seems to be offering a juicy roman Ã clef. There is, for instance, Carl Rudolph, 45, the atheist, acid-tongued dynamo of the Philosophy department who flaunts his Negro mistress in church and says no in thunder to all hypocrisy and fraudulence of soul. Object of one Rudolph harangue is Alvin Kent, 35, also a philosophy professor. Kraft has his own fraud to maintain: that he is helping his wife gain a sense of personal adequacy although he has impregnated a stockbroker's wife. Perhaps even worse for him, his latest dissertation is a resounding clinker, full of nonsensical cant. Nearly everyone in the story agonizes lengthily over self-deceit, but only Kraft finally does anything about it. When his wife runs off with a musclebound novelist, Kraft angrily pursues them and regains her, thus recovering some stature in his own eyes as well as hers. The Hanging Gardens is a swank restaurant where much of the action takes place, but the Gardens' echoes of Babylonian elegance seldom are effective. In fact, while there is much bright probing of character and philosophical chitchat, the intellectual wasteland depicted has depressing stretches.