Books: Snake or Passion Pit?

THE CARETAKERS (404 pp.)—Dariel Telfer—Simon & Schuster ($4.50).

This is an angry first novel about the casual maltreatment of the insane in a Midwestern state asylum called Canterbury. The book's anger might be a great deal more effective if Author Telfer, who herself spent six years as a clerk in a state institution, did not keep abandoning the snake pit for the passion pit.

Low-budget Canterbury is a kind of unrest home where an inmate ekes out his life like an indeterminate prison sentence. Most of the attendants are too overworked and too unfeeling to do more than slap the patients into...