This strictly Ã¡ la mode first novel--present-tense narrative, Dick-and-Jane dialogue, transcribed graffito and snatches of TV--fancies itself a visionary tract heralding the ""Nouveau Ice Age."" An affectless story of ""a nice normal family getting divorced,"" it's also meant to be heavily ironic, satiric, and world-weary, but it's just plain fatuous. Thomas is a zoologist in Hope, Rhode Island, whose wife, Jane, decides she needs some ""space."" And that space seems mostly occupied by her lover, an avant-garde florist who runs the ""X-Rated Greenhouse"" and sends pornographic notes about his ""pistil"" and her ""stamen."" The soon-to-be divorced couple worry most about who'll get custody of their kids, two toddlers whose dialogue is indistinguishable from the adults' and who also do pseudo-profound things--the two-year-old spreads bird seed everywhere and the five-year-old puts Band-Aids over everything. Since almost nothing happens until the unpredictably surreal ending. Rose stuffs his anorexic novel with zany characters who come back up undigested. They include: Al Testa, Thomas' scrappy lawyer, a caricature of a no-class slob, from his white alligator shoes to his flatulence; Vavaw, Thomas' Portuguese housekeeper, who says zany: things like ""corkstopper"" and ""pissy-whipped"" instead of the correct vulgarisms; and Duke, Thomas' best friend, who ""did the Ivy League trip"" with him and now owns a nightclub where the sexy dishwasher keeps trying to strip on the bar. It's difficult to decide what's more offensive here, the monosyllabic prose, with its lazy diction (""What it is: Thomas wants to want--even if he doesn't really want to. . ."") or the ""zoned-out' consciousness that seems to permit a casual racism and sexism. No matter which side comes up in this coin-toss, you lose. But that's like, wow, fate, you know?