A far cry from the old, warm, folksy Saroyan, is this harsh, despairing small novel about a writer who can no longer write. He is broke. His young wife harps incessantly on sex and money, in a coy-dirty fake intimacy, both alone and with friends. Their home life, with children, is a shambles of unscheduled meals and minor necessities. He gambles on horse races and finally wins a good deal of money. His wife, meanwhile, has invited her rich friends (both married to older men) to fly up for a weekend and one of the husbands dies of a heart attack. No one, except perhaps the writer, reacts with grace. In most of the characters staginess has made up for a loss of headway and hope and their floundering is brittle, painful, ugly and raw. Even in his middle-aged loss of illusion, Saroyan still can convey an exceptional emotional tone.