Sometimes self-awareness and sophistication can be downright handicaps: chic Schickel (of movie books/reviews fame) is so archly intent on letting us know that his ""love story for the once married"" is not going to be goo-goo sentimental that we're not allowed to feel a thing or believe narrator David's feelings for an instant. ""God, have you ever seen such a jumble of metaphors?"" writes David (a maker of documentaries and such) after he describes his arid former marriage--and the self-consciously wordy pace doesn't let up when David meets old friend Libby in Bloomingdale's and sees her with new eyes. Libby's on the rebound too, having bid her alcoholic editor-husband adieu, and, after a getting-to-know-you-in-a-new-way dinner, David leads Libby into the bedroom, ""into dimness, into darkness, into forgetfulness, into some part of our futures."" Because of his jet-hopping career, the only way David can continue this affair is to invite Libby to join him for a week at an English country cottage (lent by a titled British actor); and Libby, wry cutie that she is, feels more embarrassed cooking David's meals than sharing his bed. Ah, but this bucolic bliss is not meant to last. When it turns out that David's ex is shacked up with Libby's ex (""that most tiresome of clichÃ‰s, the wife-swap""), Libby is revolted (""I don't want to live in a Grace Metalious novel"") and goes Away. It doesn't matter that this artificially induced sad ending rings false; we couldn't have cared anyway. ""it will have been noted that that earnest inner dialogue, that constant examination of feelings and motives and anxieties on which the author has so frequently dwelt in the earlier pages. . . ."" The words of a man in love? In love, yes, but with words, not a woman.