Stern, whose name has been less bruited about than that other novel of no relation, is a young author whose work ranges from terse short stories through an unvoguish, obliquely comic novel about a television huckster. His new book concerns Americans abroad: Edward Gunther, an advertising man turned intellectual who comes with family to Venice, the scene of these events; Cressida, his thwarted wife; a lady poet named Nina who becomes Gunther's lover; and Stitch, an ancient ex-patriate sculptor who resembles Ezra Pound. Gunther's illicit affair, glandular in a Herzogian manner (which is to say, humiliating thoughts are exuded along with the right responses), and the domestic tragedy which follows, never seem to gibe with the inclusion of Stitch-Pound. This paternal figure is symptomatic of stern's preoccupation with such minor matters as literary people abroad, their exciting work which only bores when described, and academic necrophiles. Only at the very end, back in America, does the story glow with the fatal luminescence of moral rout, connubial disaster and that precise superimposition of physical and mental life which makes novels worth reading. A mudder, in a dry season.