Books: New American Tragedy

HOME FROM THE HILL (312 pp.)—William Humphrey—Knopf ($3.95).

Sooner or later the genuine novelist discovers that his bread and butter depends on the quiet desperations that lie imbedded in the lives of most men and women. How he handles them is one measure of his worth. Texas-born William Humphrey, 33, has learned his lesson early. Alongside a fine book of short stories (The Last Husband and Other Stories), he can now place a first novel that shows how extraordinary the ordinary can be. Home from the Hill tells a story that will be largely familiar to every small-towner. What takes it well...