The Obscene Bird of Night


by Phoebe Adams

by Jose Donoso. Knopf, $7.95. Set in Chile, this novel of monsters, freaks, witchcraft, heresy, and lost or concealed identity offers so many possible interpretations that its meaning becomes the whim of the individual reader. The book is flamboyantly inventive and full of elaborately developed fantasies reminiscent of Garcia Márquez. But Mr. Donoso does not have Márquez’ acute sense of timing, and frequently lets his visionary set pieces run on too long, to the point where the reader ceases to be impressed and begins to wonder when, if ever, the author will get back to business and his story. Translated by Hardie St. Martin and Leonard Mades.