February 11, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

A Frolic of His Own

Current Status
In Season
William Gaddis
We gave it an A-

Oscar Crease is suing a Hollywood producer for stealing his play; he is also suing an auto company because his car ran him over after it broke down and he tried to jump-start it. Oscar’s lover, Lily, is suing her ex-husband and thinking of suing her family’s preacher, who persuaded them to leave all their money to his church; she is also contemplating a suit against the doctor who gave her faulty breast implants. Oscar’s father is a judge presiding over any number of suits, and Oscar’s sister’s friend is suing everybody under the sun. Composed almost entirely of dialogue, A Frolic of His Own is a technical masterpiece: Even though none of the speakers is identified in the conventional sense, and all of the action is contained in the dialogue, the story is surprisingly clear and easy to follow. Perfectly timed and perfectly biting, it exposes the absurdity of today’s litigation-happy society: a place in which people will turn to the law at the drop of a hat, less for recourse from an imagined ill than for recourse from themselves. A-

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