Cigarettes is a novel about the rich and powerful, tracing their complicated relationships from the 1930s to the 1960s, from New York City to Upper New York State. Though nothing is as simple as it might appear to be, we could describe this as a story about Allen, who is married to Maud but having an affair with Elizabeth, who lives with Maud. Or say it is a story about fraud in the art world, horse racing, and sexual intrigues. Or, as one critic did, compare it to a Jane Austen creation, or to an Aldous Huxley novel—and be right and wrong on both counts.
What one can emphatically say is that Cigarettes is a brilliant display of Harry Mathews's ingenuity and deadly playfulness.