Books: Making Ends Meet

OCTOBER LIGHT by JOHN GARDNER 434 pages. Knopf. $10.

More than any of his contemporaries, John Gardner has made being a novelist a hyphenated art. In The Sunlight Dialogues he did a brilliant turn as philosopher-novelist, debating issues of law and dissent while nimbly stage-managing a family melodrama in upstate New York. In his re-creations of myth, Grendel and Jason and Medeia, he played the novelist-as-epic-poet, perhaps a little consciously; but once again he revealed his consistent longing for Significance, for the Big Theme, for some dimension that extends beyond the modern novel into...

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