success. It would be difficult for me tonexplain to you how neady impossible itnis to tell a lie. . . . Used to, I could tellna dozen lies before breakfast and notneven break a sweat.” There the textnseems to allude to another in which ancharacter famously declares, “Why,nsometimes I’ve believed as many as sixnimpossible things before breakfast,”nand which finally and lyrically asks us.nLife, what is it but a dream? JoenRobert Kirkman lives in a wonderlandnof his own perceptions, or of his ownndevising, or of his son’s evocation —ndepending on how you look at it.nThis world in which anything cannhappen must somehow also be one innwhich nothing and no one is to bentaken for granted. The most mundanenexperience is. of the earth, earthy, andnpartakes if not of the divine order, thennof the pagan realm, before this worldnwas desacralized:nNow wasn’t this the sweetestnpart of the day, milking the easyncows? Nudging head andnshoulder into the comfortablenflanks, washing the teats andnsqueezing them gently at first inncase of soreness and graduallynbuilding into rhythm, streamnafter straight stream in a pulsenas regular as the stately heart ofnthe animal, bright jets of milknxing to fill the pail with warmnlace, with delicate foam thatntouched his knuckles like anspiderweb. These days, thesenhours were of life the creamnsupreme . . .nBut such a static moment is typical ofnthis tale only in its lyricism. Most of JoenRobert’s long Friday is rife with action,ninteraction, and reversals. When, atnthree in the morning, he attempts tonintimidate his hunting companions withna tall tale about a devil-possum, he findsnhimself climbing a tree to go capturenthe thing. When he rescues a little girlnfrom drowning, he is rewarded in a waynhe never conceived of When, as anschoolteacher, he must confront thenparents of a wounded veteran and formernstudent, the result is not one hencould have anticipated — or the readerneither.nThe “curious mixed-up day” includesnepisodes of instruction in “GeneralnScience,” celebrations of Huxleynand Darwin, defenses of academic free­ndom, memories of childhood conflictsnwith a tenant family, an encounter withna secret memorial for the victims of war,nand a phantasmagoric run-in with a goatnon a rooftop — one who makes somenstriking suggestions.nWhen the schoolteacher finally getsnhis class on a roll, his play-Socrates runsnaway with the day’s lesson and makesnmincemeat of that teacher’s pretensions.nJoe Robert’s long-awaited confrontationnwith the school board becomesna nonevent, even a mystery. Anjournalist is the news she purports tontranscribe. An innocent high-schoolnstudent is not what she seems, not by anlong shot.nSurrounded by wonders and dazzlednby revelations, Joe Robert Kirkman maynindeed be the Aeneas that he thinks hisnson sees him as. But if he is less than annepic hero, he is still a man who knowsnthe worid — “The world was plenty.”nThat worid is both natural and supernatural,na world of visions and dreamsnand flesh-made words. The world in itsnfullness of body and spirit is the world ofnFred Chappell’s fiction. The least wencan say of it is that it’s a world wellnworth living in while we recreate it bynscanning the words it’s made of Thenmost we can say of it is that if you cannfind better fiction this season, read that.nIf not—a big if—then read this.n/.O. Tate is a professor of English atnDowHng College on Long Island.nGood Lovers ArenDead Loversnby Katherine Dalton ,nCharley Blandnby Mary Lee SettlenNew York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux;n207 pp., $18.95nChariey Bland, as his father describesnhim, would have been anprodigal son except he never had thengumption to leave home. Still, he hasnthe charm most lost souls have, and fornthe widowed, 3 5-year-old narrator ofnMary Lee Settle’s eleventh novel, returnednhome to West Virginia from anBohemian life in Europe, this mostneligible and most ineligible of bachelorsnnnLIBERAL ARTS-nTHE TWO-MARTINInSERMONnTHE BUSINESSWOMAN’S BIBLEnTHE BUSINESSMAN’S BIBLEnSuccess starts with the Bible! Nelson’snBusiness Bibles in the New King JamesnVersion give you the edge with PrioritynProfiles, 52 spiritual directives fornsuccess. . . . Elegant design and Slimlinenformat make this volume a welcomengift, desk reference, and travelnBible. . . . The Businesswoman’s Biblenand The Businessman’s Bible are availablenin Full-Color Hardcover or DustynRose and Gray bonded leather. Giftnboxed with ribbon marker . . .n—from Publishers Weekly,nOctober 6, 1989nbecomes her reason to stay.nLiving on what she can earn writingnor tutoring French, hand to mouth in anpart of the world and an era (laten50’s-early 60’s) in which money, heavennforbid poverty, cannot be discussed,nshe spends her time and energy and lastnbit of youth on this 40-plus bachelornwho cannot make a man of himselfn”[PJrofane love,” she says, “is a place,nan Eden, a prison. Within it, peoplenglow, colors are bright, you believeneverything you have always wanted tonbelieve. It is a place of trust, of guilelessnessnand deep iridescent illusion. I thinknthe snake that seduced Eve was notntemptation but guile, for it was the onenquality that could destroy her.”nThe narrator is a foreigner now innher own hometown even to the extentnthat she is always explaining to thenreader, her confessor, the Southernismsnin what was once, surely, her ownnEnglish. At first an object of interest,nshe holds on to the favorite CharleynBland longer than is acceptable, and isndropped with that crushing Southernnpoliteness that is without malice andnwithout pity.nLike so many books about deadnaffairs, this one is also an exorcism. Andnlike so many writers, especially womennwriters. Settle through the medium ofnher narrator wants to dissect the howsnand the whys of a lost intensity. There isnnot much in the way of plot, but as ann”In Memoriam” the novel works verynFEBRUARY 1990/39n