Books: Liberal's Crackup

DIDMAN by John Speicher. 262 pages. Harper & Row. $6.95.

The haunted WASP protagonists of John Speicher's novels seem to have a fatal weakness for social causes they cannot call their own. In Looking for Baby Paradise, a young Ivy League Lancelot risks life and sanity as a youth-recreation worker among the warring street gangs of New York's Washington Heights. Now in Didman, Speicher's second novel, an alcoholic publishing executive loses himself in a black-militant plan to attack the New York Stock Exchange.

What makes Joe Didman's plight so relevant is that he finally recognizes his own historical irrelevance. Didman's liberal conscience...

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