A drippingly sentimental and blessedly brief first novel about a shallow young university professor who fails in love with a sexy older woman. The narrator is Carl Larsson, a fresh, young Ph.D. who in 1967 leaves Missouri and heads for Los Angeles to teach English literature at a university. Carl is definitely not a 60's free spirit, preferring The Marriage of Figaro to The Grateful Dead, and this may be one reason why he falls for Nicole, a 39-year-old Professor of French literature, although another may be his own romantic nature (her name ""has a lovely silvery sound. . . like faraway bells,"" ""candles flame"" in her eyes, and their time together affects him with ""sweet, wild, estatic delight""). The problem is that Nicole is just coming off an affair with another professor named Mark, and simply can't love Carl the way he loves her. Worse, she soon discovers she's pregnant with Mark's child, and Carl can't handle this at all--he moans and pouts and finally betrays Nicole by refusing to go with her to an abortion clinic. The two don't see each other for a while, but as the new term begins, Carl learns that Nicole has not only kept the baby, but married Mark. Filled with guilt and desire, Carl attempts to reconcile with Nicole, but she stonewalls him in her office, and refuses to reply to his literary love-letters. Finally, though, at a dinner party, she slips his hand over her swollen belly; Carl feels the baby kick and has the epiphany he's been longing for since page one as he cries for ""the precariousness of life, and the cruel paradox of our attachments and vulnerabilities. . ."" This is intended to be the story of a young man looking back in sorrow and bemoaning his own callowness; unfortunately, Carl is throughout a distasteful character, stiff, pompous, and ""literary."" By the time he feels life growing in Nicole, the same has long since seeped from the novel.