Books: Uncumber in the Detritosphere

A VERY PRIVATE LIFE by Michael Frayn. 132 pages. Viking. $4.50.

Britain's Michael Frayn has switched in the past few years from professional satirist—funny once a week in the London Observer—to novelist. Few writers have managed that transition successfully, and even fewer with Frayn's apparently effortless assurance. His first three novels (The Tin Men, The Russian Interpreter and Against Entropy) dealt humorously enough with contemporary life. His fourth is bolder and by no means funny.

A Very Private Life is set in the distant future, at a time when a technological civilization has developed beyond the wildest dreams of 20th century man. Rather,...

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