Music critic for a London newspaper, narrator Doug Yandell has just left the office of his priggish editor, Harold Meers, when he receives a call from Kitty Vandervane, the wife of his friend, Roy, a composer, conductor, and ne’er-do-well celebrity. Arriving at the Vandervane home, he learns from Kitty that Vandervane has taken still another mistress, this one even younger than his others. She urges Yandell to help Vandervane, to save him from the irreparable ruin that would ensue if her fifty-seven-year-old husband decided to run off with his latest mistake.
The “mistake” is Sylvia Meers, the Girl 20—though she is actually only seventeen—the daughter of Yandell’s editor, Meers, a philistine who already despises Vandervane as he does all artists whom he does not appreciate or understand. As for Vandervane himself, he readily admits his infatuation with Sylvia. He unashamedly explains that he finds her youthful sexuality a healthful tonic, exciting, stimulating, renewing.
The narrator, too, is no stranger to purely sexual relationships. He shares Vivienne Copes, his mistress, with “another bloke” about whom Vivienne is tactfully reticent; Yandell is also in love with Vandervane’s daughter, Penny, who has taken Gilbert Alexander, a black West Indian, as her lover.
With these relationships clearly defined, the story moves quickly. Vandervane convinces Yandell to help him, not in Kitty’s meaning, but in supplying him with access to Yandell’s apartment, where he and Sylvia can pursue their lovemaking. Additionally, Yandell...
(The entire section is 643 words.)