Michael, a writer of pornographic fiction, creates an ideal world of sex through his two stock athletes, Colonel Grimshaw and Mavis Carmichael, while he bungles every phase of his entanglement with an older woman who has the misfortune to fall in love with him. But his insensitivity to this love is in direct contrast to the tenderness with which he attempts to make his aunt's slow death in hospital tolerable, while his employer, Maloney, failed poet and comic king of pornographers, comes gradually to preside over this broken world. Everywhere in this rich novel is the drama of opposites, but, above all, sex and death are never far from each other.

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