Books: Signs of Life

BLACK CONCEIT

by JOHN LEONARD

254 pages. Doubleday. $6.95.

NICKEL MOUNTAIN

by JOHN GARDNER

314 pages. Knopf. $6.95.

You can't write a tragic novel about a man who didn't get a $3 raise. —David Stacton, 1964

This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel. —Horace Walpole, 1776

Among the considerable afflictions of the serious novel these days are fear of banality and a horror of sentiment. However skillfully they are written, there is often not enough at stake in contemporary novels to keep the mind and heart alive. Two...

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