Books: Satire Without Spark

IMPORTANT PEOPLE (339 pp.—Robert Van Gelder—Doubleday ($3 .

Almost two years ago, big, amiable Robert Harlan Van Gelder quit his job as editor of the New York Times Book Review to write his first novel. On the strength of his name, an opening chapter and an outline of what was to come, his publishers had given him an unprecedented advance of $20,000. For all of three days (a long life for that kind of gossip), it was the talk of the trade.

Author Van Gelder calls Important People "a kind of Currier & Ives of the current scene" and his publishers promise "a...

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