Books: Mr. P.'s Pleasure

THE SAILOR, SENSE OF HUMOUR & OTHER STORIES (369 pp.)—V. S. Pritchett—Knopf ($4.50).

The scene is a suburban English pub, and two middle-aged ladies named Margaret and Jill are having a quiet chat. Suddenly, a bitter accusation flashes above the gin. Margaret, hiking her skirt, declares that Jill has brought a flea into her life. It seems that the flea—not an "ordinary" London one but "some great black foreign brute"—sprang from Jill onto Margaret. But why was Jill harboring the flea in the first place? Because a young sailor had given it to her—not intentionally, of course, but because he and Jill...

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