147241569A case of mistaken identity leads to a wild farce in Michael Frayn’s Skios. If you’ve enjoyed the author’s famous play “Noises Off,” you may be somewhat prepared for the unlikely shenanigans of playboy Oliver Fox and the eminent specialist on the scientific management of science, Dr. Norman Wilfred.

Although the plot resembles a Marx brothers comedy at times, with characters just missing each other as they pass in the hallway, Frayn’s wry observations are pointedly hilarious in the truthful commentary:

“Of…bringing into being…by his very act of talking about it…I can relate this to my own experience as a financial consultant, thought Chuck Friendly, the second-richest man in the state of Rhode Island.  In just such a way have I, even without divine powers, created value where no value previously existed.”

If you can accept the dubious actions and improbable characters as good form in a comedy of manners, you will enjoy this frothy satire on academics and presumptions about people.  When Dr.Winfred and Oliver Fox accidentally trade places, Oliver’s smooth rendition of an expert in everything gives new meaning to the phrase “piled higher and deeper” as a substitute for Ph.D.   The story ends as it starts – unpredictably ridiculous – with the insights of a good satirist.

A good friend alerted me to this wild book, advising me to wait for it on my long library list rather than buy it. Glad I did – probably not a book I’d keep on my limited space bookshelf, but one I thoroughly enjoyed reading.