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March 28, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

CLOSING ARGUMENTS by Frederick Busch (Fawcett: $10; 288 pp.). In this darkly compelling novel, Busch peels away the respectable facade of a small Eastern town and the people who inhabit it. As a former Vietnam POW, lawyer Marcus Brennan enjoys the privileges accorded a local hero. Examining his marriage to a former anti-war activist, he reflects, "I was Schelle's reconciliation project. . . . I was the way she healed the United States of America. She joined the Vietnam wound with a pressure bandage made of her and me. . . ." But Brennan continues to fight another war, an inner battle to overcome the legacy of his cruelly abusive parents. His unhappy past leaves him vulnerable to the dangerous allure of a client accused of murdering her lover during a sadomasochistic tryst. Busch's descriptions of the narrator's psyche crumbling to reveal the truths and illusions of his life recall Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."

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