Books: Novelist's Tricks

PITY FOR WOMEN—Henry de Montherlant—Knopf ($2.75).

The novels of Henry de Montherlant are characterized by a strange air of scatterbrained earnestness. One of the wittiest of modern French writers, he gets his effects, like an accomplished sleight-of-hand artist, by looking in the wrong direction, delivering little sermons about this and that, suddenly popping out with his tricks already worked. Because of this stealthy way of sneaking up on a story, his characters sometimes seem less like human beings than like rabbits pulled out of a hat, blinking uncomfortably at their sudden appearance.

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