Exquisite stylist Maso (The Art Lover, 1990) pursues a form for her lushly hysterical phrase-spinning. You read this bisexual/lesbian novel with great sympathy for its fine writing and wait fruitlessly for its beautiful brushstrokes and wispy episodes to come together and grab the back of your neck. Catherine, a young American novelist hanging around the Cìte d'Azur on a writing grant, is waiting to be joined by her lover of ten years when a phone call flattens her dreams. Her lover gives strong reasons why they can't go on: She can no longer be a slave to Catherine's genius, she lists Catherine's crimes, then adds that she's seeing someone else. Catherine's spirit, arched like a Wallace Stevens poem, collapses into a gorgeous puddle. She sits around cafes in Arles and Nice writing in her notebook and becomes known as ``the American woman in the Chinese hat who cries and writes''--and tear by tear goes nuts, drinks too much, and becomes what some readers might think promiscuous. She seduces a 17-year-old artist's model (a very well-done scene), gives herself to a poet, a fascist, a fireman, and is laid by three ticket- scalpers in one night. When she runs into Lucien, a shockingly beautiful, long-haired blond Frenchman drinking ``liquid light'' from a luminous stream of water at an outdoor fountain, all desire focuses on him. They talk, and talk, largely about their favorite films--he is someone who ``stepped out of an unmade film by the dead Truffaut.'' The reader knows this affair is star-crossed even as Catherine sits writing about it, clearly in the same rose- lighted words that Maso herself uses. All voice and no story.