Jonathan Franzen

Nell Zink's comic 'Mislaid' is quick-paced, problematic

Nell Zink's comic 'Mislaid' is quick-paced, problematic

Mislaid, misnamed, misconstrued — all of these terms could describe Nell Zink's exuberant but problematic second novel, a comedy of manners and errors about sexuality, race and class in the American South. The time is 1960s post-segregation Virginia, and Peggy, a freshman and aspiring playwright with a "pent-up" sex drive and frustrated lesbian desires, is studying literature at Stillwater College when she falls under the spell of Lee, a famous and wealthy poetry professor. Although Lee not so secretly enjoys his own adventures with members of his own sex, the two embark on an affair and, after a surprise pregnancy, get married. Ten predictably frustrated years...