Books: Ring Around the Rosary

FARRAGAN'S RETREAT by Tom McHale. 311 pages. Viking. $6.95.

The old motto, "Power perfected becomes grace," could have been invented to describe Tom McHale's novels about Irish and Italian Catholics in America. Humor is his forte—not satire but farce. No aberration is too grotesque to be included, no character too minor to be lampooned. McHale's comedy waves over chaos like luxuriant grass over a grave.

There are many young writers with healthy reserves of rage and chaos, some indeed with little else. What distinguishes McHale is not only the fertility of his invention but the...

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