Books: Critics Who Condescend

THE TRICK OF IT

by Michael Frayn

Viking; 172 pages; $17.95

Blessings on British writers! They are keeping the comic novel alive and well with very little help from other quarters. Perhaps it is the malign ghost of Evelyn Waugh that tweaks them into action, but A.N. Wilson's social satires and David Lodge's academic lampoons have a vigor and recklessness that are often in short supply in more serious work.

Michael Frayn is best known for his plays, especially for Noises Off (1983), a classic farce that burned up the box office on both sides of the Atlantic. The Trick of...