Books: All in the Family

AN ANTIQUE MAN by Merrill Joan Gerber. 278 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $4.95.

In literature nowadays, it is fashionable to joke raucously about death or use it as an existential symbol rather than write quietly and seriously about it. An Antique Man is an old-fashioned book. In this seemingly autobiographical first novel, the author solemnly chronicles the death of a nice man, cut down by cancer in his middle 50s. Unfortunately, the work falls considerably short of A Death in the Family, James Agee's classic in this genre.

Abram Goldman is a robust and endearing antique dealer with an imaginative zest for life. When...

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