You cannot argue away Miss MacIntosh, My Darling: it's just there, like Mount Everest. Almost twenty years in the making, and one thousand and one hundred and ninety-eight pages long- twice the size of Dog Years, no less. Something of Virginia Woolf and Carson McCullers and Elinor Wylie is here, and something, too, of Jamesian psychology, Joycean puns, Proustian longueurs. Miss Young's nominal method is stream of consciousness; in her hands, however, it becomes a veritable sea, a floating palimpsest, polyphonic, impressionistic. It is a hybrid work: a poetic novel which is also somewhat homey, overwhelmingly symbolic yet lyrical, incantatory but also humorous, rather grotesquely so. Can one call it an ""extended metaphor""- the narrator representing Illusion haunted by Reality? Or is Miss Young's theme simply the irreality of life? The characters are large, luminous, bizarre, troubling . Miss MacIntosh, the central figure, a bald headed governess, solid as rock though smashed to pieces inside, stuffed with odd bits of useless knowledge, blighted remembrances; she invokes the ordinary (""The life is what counts. Do you turn the spade over the living heart?"") as well as the terrible (""Who can help me but God Himself Who has already failed and is not?""). The narrator's mother, a dreamy, drug-addicted recluse; the lawyer, Mr. Spitzer, who plays a game with his own identity; the stormy feminist Cousin Hannah; the mystical industrialist Titus Bonebreaker; Esther Longtree and her ""tale of woe""--all these people shuttle back and forth against a wavering background; the locale is America but nothing so parochial is implied. Indeed Miss MacIntosh, My Darling invites all sorts of philosophic, even theological interpretations. At the same time it is full of self-dramatization and Gothic touches (murder, a suggestion of lesbianism, suicide); the structure is rhythmic, the dialogue quaintly sinister, off-key, magical. Is it a work of art or merely a formidable imitation? One is left wondering.