MOMENTUM by Marc Diamond (Penguin: $5.95; 116 pp).

It's easy to admire a novel--any novel--written in only a weekend, but do we really want to read one? As with a house built in a day, we expect holes. "Momentum," surprisingly, doesn't leak much. The story of a Canadian named Still who loses his government job and spirals down through drinking bouts, paranoid visions of "The Thing" (Vancouver's Expo) and involvement in a murder, sustained only by his luck at the race track and the ambiguous attentions of four strong women, won the 1985 International Three-Day Novel Contest for Marc Diamond, a Vancouver playwright.

This novel has three virtues. One is earned. Still--whose life is anything but--is a witty narrator. One is unearned. We imagine Canadians to be sturdy and innocent; decadence among the Douglas firs, smog, drugs, radical feminists, New Age entrepreneurs, "lost ones" in the streets, seems fresher and more interesting than the same old stuff on Sunset Boulevard. The third is simply the innate strength of the three-day novel, just as cartoon characterization is its weakness: the energy fueled by those seamless, sleepless hours and cups of coffee. In short, momentum.

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