This novelist’s characters are like himself. They speak in clever & rounded sentences. They have caught life in a linguistic net, & found some odd fish there, & now they are going to tell you about it: not really at length, but in the end at more length than you suspected in the beginning.
The impression of wisdom radiates from the feeblest of their jokes. You look covertly at your watch even as you think, “How delightful!”
It isn’t possible at this distance–the distance between writer & reader–to tell how much of the novel is “biographical”. If some of it is, there’s nothing we can do about it; if none of it is, well that’s a joke some decades old by now, & perhaps a little less joyful than it seemed in 1980. What is possible to say is that the acknowledgements page, written in the same tone as the book itself, is a very self-indulgent piece of work.
A butterfly landed on page 52 while I was reading it in my garden. From that single event I learned nothing about the book, or reading, or writing, or anything at all.