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IN BRIEF

Fiction

July 03, 1994|ERIKA TAYLOR

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS by Andrew Bergman (Donald I Fine: $19.95; 218 pp.) It's interesting the way the world portrayed in a novel can be as large as the galaxy or as small as a pencil point, yet exactly how that world-size is determined seems to have nothing to do with the number of characters, plot, or even the age and background of the protagonist. The size of a fictional world is, perhaps, decided by attitude. In "Sleepless Nights," by Andrew Bergman, the world is about the size of a coffin.

Leaping randomly through four different decades, this novel chronicles the life of Robby Weisglass, the youngest child of German Jewish refugees. Robby is being sexually molested by both his mother and older sister while his father remains oblivious. Bergman, a well known screenwriter, is at his best during sections describing Robby's mother--some-how rendering her sympathetic and horrible at the same time. "Her warm hard breast brushes past my lips. It lacks my sister's full rosy newness. This is a European breast, older, more worn. But it has a kind of bristly, no-nonsense sensuality." This from a boy who hasn't even had his bar mitzvah.

"Sleepless Nights" is a humid, mossy type of a book. At times reading it feels like being locked in a stranger's closet with all the private, alien smells and claustrophobia. Although Bergman's writing is uniformly good, one may long for an less obstructed view, a kind of verbal spaciousness which ultimately has nothing to do with subject matter.

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