FESTIVAL FOR THREE THOUSAND MAIDENS by Richard Wiley (Dutton: $18.95; 240 pp.) . Into the ordered society of a Korean village in the late 1960s drops a Peace Corps teacher named Bobby Comstock, as undefined as only a 23-year-old American can be. Obesity has exempted him from the Vietnam War draft, restricted him to the role of clown, disqualified him from romance. Comstock is used to feeling that he moves "through the lives of others leaving no trail," but in Korea he lands like a big, soft bomb.
Richard Wiley ("Soldiers in Hiding," "Fools' Gold") manages something rare here: He does justice to the virtues of both East and West. Some of the high points of this novel are excerpts from the diary of the 60-year-old vice headmaster of the school where Comstock teaches. Imbued with the Confucian doctrine that life can be reduced to five hierarchical relationships (to ruler, son, wife, younger brother and friend), he is appalled by Comstock's apparent flippancy and considers him "outside of everything imaginable"--yet is willing to befriend him once he can find something in the American to respect.