Books: Attachments

FAMILIES by Jane Howard Simon & Schuster; 282 pages; $9.95

"When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation," said Vladimir Nabokov, "the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!"

The trick is how to walk on water without, as V.N. warned, "descending upright among staring fish." Great novelists are born with the knack. Good journalists must...

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