An unnecessary and unpleasant book -- and it is not only the strait-laced who will feel this. A book that derives much of its imagery from the gutter and bathroom, and that depicts a loathsome set of characters, living an unreal and sordid life. The plot, such as it is, revolves around the childhood, adolescence and youth of one Ferdinand, and might be a forerunner to Journey to the End of the Night. Such a man might have had such a childhood -- in an author's fuddled brain. This story lacks the brilliance of the earlier book, and for that reason has less excuse.