A self-styled ""Renaissance guy,"" Buddy Barnes is an amiable 30-year-old screw-up long past redemption in the eyes of his wife of nine years, Jo. She's not impressed by the fact that Buddy is the star of the ""Stickmen,"" a championship butcher-shop-sponsored Chicago softball team, or that he has won the admiring attention of groupies and cops and blue collars; and she's thoroughly fed up with his lack of a job, his propensity for false noses and rubber fangs, his breaking down doors with his bat. So Jo says--Enough! And Buddy's attempt at contrition is a disaster: he buys her a plant which happens to be already dead in the store. (Buddy thinks the dead foliage is just an exotic species: ""There was a balmy hint of the trade winds in its generous yellow leaves."") Result? Buddy ends up out on his ear; and, in the company of ""Stickman"" Herman Glick, old pal and fellow marital miscreant, he hits bottom--staying at the dive apartment of a friend, watching TV cartoons, eating Pez and Snoballs and Sara Lee banana cake, hocking wedding rings, failing ignominiously with a pair of softball Sallies. . . all of which climaxes, pulling out of the spin, with the Stickmen's championship game. The final chapters--Buddy's hesitant participation in the game, his triumph, and his last-ditch try to make Jo take him back--have a sentimental inevitability that's just about right for a sad-sack comedy like this. And Lorenz's way with self-deprecating American vernacular is superb. So, though the novel sags a bit when Buddy and Herman (""the Glicker"") go through that tensionless, overlong, lower-depths hiatus, it's overall a very nice and very bright debut indeed--breezy and incorrigible and sway-backed.