“Mrs. Caliban” by Rachel Ingalls is an unusual book with an unusual publication history. First published in 1982, the slim surrealist masterpiece is the story of a romance between a lonely housewife and (stick with me here) an amphibious humanoid named Larry. It was Ingalls’ third book of fiction and, like the two that preceded it, at first almost entirely ignored. “Practically zilch,” she said herself, describing both its commercial and critical reception in a 1986 profile that ran in this newspaper under the headline “Obscure U.S. Author Begins Storybook Life.” The “storybook” part had to do with the novel’s surprise inclusion on a list produced by the British Book Marketing Council of the “top 20 American novels of the post-World War II period.” This generated a flurry of interest and money: “Mrs. Caliban” was reissued and reviewed widely and warmly; the Book of the Month club picked it up; a three-book deal with Simon & Schuster was signed. Ingalls, an American who has lived in England since the ’60s, was 46 at the time of her brush with literary fame. To a contemporary reader, her story sounds a bit like that of Nell Zink avant la lettre. Zink is a contemporary late-emerging expat satirist with a caustic streak and a penchant for short, brilliant novels, but her star is still rising: She has been long-listed for the National Book Award and has published four books in the last three years, with another on the way. Ingalls returned to obscurity almost immediately. Most of her books are long out of print in the U.S., and some have never been published here at all. Still, Ingalls has always had her devotees, and each generation discovers her anew. The present reissue of “Mrs. Caliban” has a fittingly wry yet fully smitten introduction by Rivka Galchen, who tells us that “in Ingalls’s fictional worlds terrible things happen regularly; there are prophecies, metamorphoses, and, almost always, violence. ‘Mrs. Caliban,’ slim and often bright in tone, has a body count to rival a western.” The front matter boasts effusive quotes from John Updike, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates, Daniel Handler, Ed Park and Alexandra Kleeman. Earlier this fall, novelist J. Robert