LOOP'S PROGRESS by Chuck Rosenthal (Weidenfeld & Nicolson: $15.95; 233 pp.). Unloved, unloving, unaware, uneducated; shooting morphine, burglarizing regularly, Jarvis Loop, the narrator of this novel, is an uncomplaining resident among grotesque, smashingly over-blown eccentrics. Nightmare stuff. Yet, you're laughing.
Offering advice, Jarvis' fanatically religious mother asks, "Who ever won anything by being fair?" She worships a religious statuette, making it stand in a corner when her prayers go unanswered. His father constantly tosses a bowling ball as if it were helium-filled.
Uncle hears voices; sister overdoses on intellectuality and calories. Neighbor nonchalantly shoots a real cannon across the city on the Fourth of July.
In one unexpected oasis of reality, Rosenthal's account of the descent into poverty of earlier members of the immigrant family during the Depression is right on the money.