Books: Flights of Fact and Fancy

BIRDY by William Wharton; Knopf;310 pages; $8.95

It is shortly after V-J day and at a military hospital in Kentucky a damaged veteran sits in a padded cell. Or rather he squats and occasionally hops, knees together, fingers laced behind his back, arms flapping. Understandably puzzled, the Army psychiatrist in charge summons the patient's boyhood friend from the Philadelphia suburbs and asks him to try to break through this strange behavior. Al Columbato brings his own problems with him. He is recovering from plastic surgery on his jaw, smashed in Germany, and from the...

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