By L.S. Klepp
October 30, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

Plain and Normal

B
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James Wilcox’s first and most famous novel, Modern Baptists, extracted screwball comedy from the at-loose-ends eccentrics of the fictional town of Tula Springs, La., and his subsequent novels revisited the same territory. Plain and Normal moves the comedy north to an incubator of edgier eccentricity, New York City. His bumbling hero, Severinus Lloyd Norris, originally from Tula Springs, is middle-aged, Catholic, and virginally gay. His ex-wife, Pearl Fay, tells him he isn’t trying hard enough to find a boyfriend, urging him to move out of the house they still share in Yonkers. A large cast of headstrong, cross-grained characters complicate his predicament, including office coworkers who decide his career-enhancing out-of-the-closet move is a ruse and he’s secretly straight. The result is a low-key farce that’s sometimes agreeably dislocated and sometimes, in routine miscommunications and cross-purposes, on automatic pilot. B

Plain and Normal

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