P.H. Newby has always been more enthusiastically reviewed than read and his Anglo-Egyptian trilogy (Picnic at Sakkara, etc.) introduced him here as a serio-comic satirist of particular wit and grace. Changing his tone of voice in The Barbary Light (1964), he now returns to the original genre on native grounds -- the small town of Perstowe, England. There Ian Hedges, its Education Officer, is in a dour slump after the desertion of his wife. Not for Ian the unexamined life--- although there's a good deal he would like to forget or overlook. And in an attempt to reactivate himself, he (a) makes a pass at Prudence (no misnomer) Styles who spikes him to the bone with her stiletto heel and (b) dreams up his plan for a local university as a ""displacement activity."" A displacement activity is anything which is ""not eating or breathing or sex."" The story moves gently between the town's sponsorship of the university and Hedges' pursuit of the militantly independent Prudence, but in between there's a resilient, radial satire of pretty much everything that's going on in the world today. And Hedges is as attractive as Peter Sellers for whom the part would be just right... Newby never relies on the eccentric or the exaggerated effects of the more ambitious satirist; his is a much easier talent with an offhand charm.