Books: Speech After Long Silence

SHIP OF FOOLS (497 pp.)—Katherine Anne Porter—Atlantic-Little, Brown ($6.50).

The year is 1931. A German passenger-freighter, the Vera (the name cruelly suggests "truth") sails from Vera Cruz, bound for Bremerhaven. It is. of course, a floating metaphor, no less effective because it is obvious: the "ship of the world, bound for eternity," as the author explains at the outset.

Ship of Fools is a study in despair. The despair is not relieved by the usual dilu tions; it is not the giddy gloom of youth -"the world is bad (but I am young)," nor...

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