Books: Charge-O-Maniac

BAD DEBTS by Geoffrey Wolff. 222 pages. Simon and Schuster. $5.95.

All his adult life, Benjamin Freeman has been on a buy-now-never-pay-later kick. At 55, he has rarely held a job; he collects elegant, useless gewgaws—custom-made pool cues, secret listening devices—mainly to solace his loneliness by substituting objects for friends. He has become, in fact, a confirmed charge-o-maniac, who seeks public notoriety and recognition by becoming the ultimate delinquent consumer in a consumption-mad society.

Such a character could easily have emerged as a mere cipher-caricature in a satiric, ham-handed social catalogue of the times. Not in this appealing first novel. Author Wolff, Newsweek's...

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