by David Schmahmann

Permanent Press, $28.00, 198 pages

In his second novel, The Double Life of Alfred Buber, David Schmahmann writes an eminently human character study of a suburban attorney considering political office who has a penchant for books, for late-night Star Trek reruns, and, more importantly, for a young prostitute from Bangkok. Buber’s surrounding community sees him as an upstanding pillar: a fast-track for partner in his law firm and someone friends exhort daily to run for elected office, but Buber has fallen in love with Nok. While his fantasies remain mostly inside his own head, we readers soon find ourselves tangled in the mire of Buber’s own unreality. Consider, for example, a section from Schmahmann’s opening page: “In another room, the next room, Nok sleeps. Or then again, perhaps she does not. Perhaps my bedroom, that chamber of disappointments, is empty. Perhaps there is no one in it, no one at all.”

Schmahmann’s publisher touts him on the book jacket as on a par with Vladimir Nabokov. And while The Double Life of Alfred Buber clearly carries echoes of Lolita, Schmahmann is no Nabokov. Schmahmann’s prose is readable and the story is interesting, but The Double Life does not carry the moral weight, character depth, and literary nuance of Nabokov’s work.

Jennie A. Camp