Books: Wreck of a Desperado

THE DUKE OF DECEPTION: MEMORIES OF MY FATHER by Geoffrey Wolff; Random House; 275 pages; $12.95

Charles Dickens drew Mr. Micawber straight from the outlines of his own bumbling, eternally optimistic father. When James Joyce created Simon Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, he took a cold look at his da and virtually transcribed the old man's boozy conversation. Examples proliferate, but the point is clear: lucky the writer who is blessed with a vivid parent. The childhood may have been hellish, but the material supplied by...

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