Kindling Does for Firewood
King aims for a flip tone in this debut chronicle of slackers in Melbourne, Australia, but his experimentalist pretensions bring the novel closer to self-parody than to the social satire he seems to intend. College student Margaret and bookstore clerk William fall in love among the fiction shelves, sparring verbally about contemporary authors and ""grouse"" (cool) book jackets. But their romance is doomed from the start. Margaret lives with her conventional middle-class family, while William rebelliously shares a house (no soap or food, but beer and drugs whenever possible) with several jobless roommates--""the lost boys""--who appear in a series of extended jokes and are never seen again. This is just one of many hard-to-miss references to Peter Pan, ""from which,"" King acknowledges, ""I have drawn many characters names, puns, anagrams, similes and situations."" King's version of the tale unfolds in stream-of-consciousness monologues from Margaret and William--but William gets the best of it, often addressing the reader with direct pleas for kudos: ""Like that? Maybe not. It was a pretty analogy, though."" Unfortunately, he is less charming than his fictional precursor. By the end of the book, readers will wish that he and his (clearly talented) creator would grow up after all. (Nov.) FYI: Kindling Does for Firewood won the 1995 Australian/Vogel Literary Award.