Books: The Frayed Cuff

THE BENDER by Paul Scott. 320 pages. Morrow. $4.95.

Losers, by and large, tend to be weepers. And weepers tend to be bores. But George Lisle-Spruce, the down-at-heel non-hero of British Novelist Scott's newest book, is neither. He watches himself sinking for what may be the last time with a detached compassion that is as refreshing as it is rare in an age much given to voluble self-pity.

At 43, George is a shambling compendium of symbolic British upper-class weaknesses—most of them unwittingly acquired, along with his fringe status as a gentleman, to appease the memory of his socially insecure, non-U mother. He...

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