The Season's Difference


by Frederick Buechner.Knopf, $3.50.
This second novel by the author of A Long Dag’s Dying seems to me a book by a writer with a gift for subtly nuanced, intricately spangled prose — and nothing significant to say. There are a number of brilliant, amusing passages, but random virtuosity does not make a novel. The setting is a summer colony, and I will let the author sum up the plot himself in the words of one of his characters: “A man has a vision, or thinks he has, then tries to arrange another . . . and fails. Then another man, an old one this time and a minister, goes a little berserk and marries some children to one another. The mothers have a series of minor fits, the old man tries to climb up a tree and in the process . . . breaks his neck. . . . Very sad, yes, and certainly unsettling.” To this reader it was neither sad nor unsettling — it was phony.