Books: Messages by Mirror

CITY LIFE by Donald Barthelme. 168 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $5.95.

The dust jacket provides the perfect image for the contents. An older man and a girl, dressed in what appears to be nightshirts, are dancing a sort of ring-around-a-rosy. Despite clasped hands, the two are curiously abstracted. Their eyes do not meet. Their smiles do not match. A vaguely Marat/ Sade promise of violence seems to be in the air. The manic energy of the dance generates no gaiety, no warmth. This is a social act in a vacuum—dance seen as antic...

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