throes of madness, the reader often feelsnoverwhelmed. That Mickelsson has ankeen eye and mind one has no doubt. Henobserves, he ruminates constandy and atnlength about philosophers living andndead, about his childhood, his marriage,nhis psychotic episodes—all these, alongnwith the former inhabitants of his house,nare the “ghosts” of the book’s title. Thenproblem is that nothing escapes his attention—fromnthe troll doll hangingnfrom his jeep’s rearview mirror to thenweek’s grocery list.nThis “grocery list syndrome”—thenelevation of the trivial—is one of thenissues Gardner addressed in On MoralnFiction:nThe moment the artistic or criticalnmind loses sight of the whole, focusingnail attention on, say, the flexibilitynof the trowel, the project begins tonfail, the wall begins to aack with unduenrapidity (we expected all alongnthat the wall would crack, but not likenthis! not there and there!) and thenbuilder becomes panicky, ferocious,nincreasingly inefficient.nSince Gardner has Mickelsson spending angreat deal of time remodeling his oldnhouse, this is a particularly apt metaphorn—and a particularly telling one. Evennthough Gardner recognized this failingnon an intellectual level, as an artist henviolates his own principle.nFrom this sea of details Gardner wouldnlike his audience to seize on, in his ownnwords, “what is central to the healthynfunction of the human spirit.” As anguide we have Peter Mickelsson, annEveryman—and more particularly everyn20th-century man—perched precariouslynbetween destrucdon and discovery.nMickelsson, the philosopher-prophetmadman,nrealizes that man is drivingnhimself to destruction, indeed he, himself,nhas been driven to madness withnthat realization. Among the evil forcesnare ambiguous moral standards inngeneral, the unlawfiil disposal of nuclearnwaste, religious fanaticism, and, as innMickelsson’s own case, too much selfabsorption.nThough most readers willnalready know the so-called “moralntruths” connected with these issuesnbefore opening the book, Mickelssonnpresumably has not found the answers atnthe end of this 390-page odyssey: he’snmore mad than ever. And what Gardnernhas, when all is said and done, is a minornwork disguised as a major one whichnmight have been accomplished twice asnwell in half the space.nXxow many of them will outlastnthe century?” is a question Gardnernposes about his contemporaries in OnnMoral Fiction. He dismisses Porter,nCoover, and Graddis on the grounds ofn”pure meanness”; Pynchon, Updike,nand Barth for “intellectual blight,nacademic narrowness, or fakery”; gives an”maybe” to Malamud, Guy Davenport,nWelty, Gates, and Salinger. Not evennmendoned is Jimmy Breslin, the authornof Forsaking All Others, a novel whichnwill probably be read by more peoplenthan will Grardner’s.nIf Breslin has an artistic theory, Inhaven’t heard of it. As a man who makesnhis living as a journalist, his edict maynwell be the one espoused by newspapernpublishers: “What the public wants, thenpublic gets,” or “up go the profits.”nThere is certainly enough violence to appealnto the general public and not muchnway to avoid it given the book’s subjectnmatter: a batde for control of the Bronxndrug trade. Put succincdy, the PuertonRicans are impinging on the Mafia’s territory,nand the Mafia doesn’t like it.nSeveral murders ensue: on street corners,nswiftly accomphshed by gunmen who arenchauffeured away in sleek black cars; innbars, in front of several witnesses but notnnnone who will ante up to the poHce; andntwo particularly grisly ones involvingnchain saws. The two opposing warlordsnare Louis Mariani, who leads a respectablenupper-middle-class existence innsuburban New Jersey, and a man knownnonly as Teenager, who conducts hisnbusiness from the back of a bar, wears expensivenbut flashy jewelry, and talks in antypical “cool guy/macho man” vernacular.nIn short, the stuff of which stereotypesnare made. Like the name Breslinnassigns one of his major characters, connotingna person yet unformed, much ofnthe work itself is immature, filled withncliches.nBut the novel is not simply a seamyntale about the drug trade in a big-citynghetto. It is also a love story which,naccording to its dust jacket, is “asndangerous, doomed, and passionate asnthat of Romeo and Juliet.” At least somenof the people who read the book will benunaware that this was originally a play bynShakespeare, not a movie by Franco Zefferellinor a record from the early 1960’s onnthe Motown label. The principals innBreslin’s version are Nicki Mariani andnMaximo Escobar. Nicki, the daughter ofnthe Mafia kingpin previously mentioned,nis waiting for her husband’s releasenfrom prison. Maximo, a lifelongnfriend of Teenager and a Harvard-educatednlawyer, is trying to escape the fatenof the ghetto dweller. Their usual dialoguesnare certainly not the stuff ofnShakespeare. Nicki’s most frequent utterancenregarding Maximo is that henlooks like “a f- movie star.” Maximo,neven with his Ivy League education, isnnot much more eloquent.nSince there are so many references tonMaximo’s movie-star qualities, perhapsnfilm is the proper medium for Breslin’snwork—where the story could be told innsplashy technicolor in a couple of hoursnand where the profits realized would benmore lucrative—because a novelist he isnnot. Forsaking All Others is a mildlynentertaining book, nothing more. Itnbears no resemblance to the love story ofnMr. Montague and Miss Capulct, nor to anserious piece of fiction. DnMMMMSSnMarch 1983n