From the Steam Room

by RobertNicholsTilbury House, $18.95. Mr. Nichols’s fantastic novel mixes prose with poetry and past with future. New York City, finally and hopelessly bankrupt, has turned all control over to Helix Glowlight, who hopes to get electricity and other municipal services back into action through a loan from his friend Roderick McBladder, the president of Global Bank. McBladder, like the international finance he represents, flies about the world untouched by anything except his own bad dreams. Glowlight contends with city bigwigs named Canker and Lockjaw, and carries on a love affair with a Puerto Rican woman whom he mistakenly considers a street-smart urchin. None of the ensuing confusion is intended to make realistic sense. It is designed rather as a fun-house-mirror view of an already distorted society, satirical fantasy with a serious point, and, as can easily happen with that difficult genre, the author’s preposterous trimmings ultimately obscure his basic intention.