December 01, 1980 12:00 PM

by Dinitia Smith

Here at last is a ’60s novel that mostly works, dispassionately tracking the fierce idealism and inevitable disillusionment that marked a generation. The protagonists are a millionaire’s son turned radical campus leader and his best friend, a scholarship student determined to succeed. Their differing ambitions and private demons eventually splinter their intense friendship. The rich kid winds up on a Detroit assembly line trying to politicize indifferent workers in vivid scenes that are the best part of this uneven book. His ex-buddy lands a job on a slick New York magazine. While trying to cling to their ideals in the passionless ’70s, they’re beset by a despair neither can name, which sometimes leaves the reader confused, too. Smith, an Emmy-winning TV writer, uses spare, unsentimental prose that evokes the bleakness of her characters’ inner landscapes. (Dial, $9.95)

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