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I'd planned to review quite different books in this column. I picked up an attractive pile, but found them disappointing.

The most promising was a new novel by Graham Greene: Monsignor Quixotem (Simon & Schuster, $14.50). I opened it, read a few pages, and found myself in a remote Spanish village, enclosed in the world of a master storyteller. But the spell didn't last. The story degenerated into a not very lively theological debate between a priest and a Communist. Cervantes was banished from the scene.

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A new biography of John Ruskin, The Wider Seam by John Dixon Hunt (New York: The Viking Press, $25) was another disappointment. The author gives no reason why we should care about a not very interesting account of the Victorian artist and critic. Readers caught up in the current fad for all things Victorian, however, might want to read Ruskin's own books.

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