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by Charles Simmons


Review by John Gabree

In an age when fiction is purchased by the pound, a novel as brief as "Wrinkles," though it is as close to "perfect" as a work of art can be, is in danger of being devalued in the marketplace. Bookbuyers who pass it over for one of the heftier titles on the rack, however, will be missing an exhilarating reading experience.

I've never encountered a novel quite like "Wrinkles." The chapters are short, usually about two-and-a-half pages long. Each examines a facet of the protagonist's life. Family, sex, work, religion, finances, friendship, romance, etc., are held as if before a jeweler's glass. Each begins in childhood, progresses to a present, indefinite middle age, and concludes in a prediction about how this particular aspect of his life will turn out. It is as effective a way of telling a character's history as it is unusual.

Charles Simmons is a 58-year-old editor at The New York Times Book Review. This is his third novel. The first, "Powdered Eggs," published almost 20 years ago, was an early and hilarious look at the experience of being raised Roman Catholic. Published seven years later, "An Old-Fashioned Darling" was a sendup of men's magazines. Four years ago, he issued "Wrinkles," which he says began as a series of short meditations upon the past, present and future of a man like himself.

An output so sparse suggests that the author has been unusually conscientious, and indeed this work is not only brilliantly conceived but beautifully crafted as well. 1 doubt that many males will read it without sustaining flashes of recognition and without laughing aloud. This one you shouldn't miss. (1982)



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