THE COMPASS by Janet Coleman
Knopf; 349 pages; $22.95
These are the jokes! Severn Darden, the eccentric and fitfully inspired comic performer, once solemnly announced to his audience an upcoming lecture by Bruno Bettelheim on "Some Positive Aspects of Anti-Semitism."
Rim shot, please. Or, more appropriate for the time (the mid-1950s) and place (the environs of the University of Chicago), a wry smile and a knowing bob of the head above a woolly black turtleneck. Nothing as show biz as drum punctuation would suit an enterprise as groundbreaking, mind teasing and -- all right, all right -- history making as Chicago's...