cover image Breaking and Entering

Breaking and Entering

Joy Williams. Vintage Books USA, $17 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-394-75773-5

Although they are renting a house, Willie and Liberty, deeply disturbed drifters, break into Florida vacation homes of the wealthy, ``living the ordered life of someone else . . . inhabiting the space others had made for themselves. For they themselves were not preparing for anything, they were not building anything.'' The married couple's picaresque wanderings are springboards for Williams's (Taking Care, etc.) deliberate parody of cultural foibles and mores as Willie and Liberty encounter ceramic dildos, a dial-a-sermon telephone service for the distraught, toilets with ``deodorant sticks to protect the integrity of the bowls'' and an old woman wearing ``a low-cut evening gown which showed off her Pacemaker to good advantage.'' Williams, who has some arresting short stories to her credit, is best at creating mood, yet she distances the reader with descriptions that throb with isolation, doom, loss, depression and death. Her phrasing is provocative but forced and desultory (``His eyes looked like breakfast buns spread with guava jelly''), and the plot, as disconnected as the protagonists, leads nowhere. Portions of the novel were previously published in Esquire and the Paris Review. (June)