Luke meets Michael Lieber in late-1960s college--and he immediately feels inferior to Michael's Jewish, darker, crazier, more risky intensity. And after graduation, flat-narrating Luke marries Grace and gets a job as a journalist (""That summer Grace and I were married. We moved to New York and I got a job as a reporter on one of the wire services"") while Michael, moved to Detroit, works on the assembly-line of an automobile plant, organizing--or trying to--the workers on behalf of a splinter radical group that's going nowhere. After a bombing of company headquarters backfires (a night-guard is killed t, Michael, implicated but not physically involved in the bombing, goes on the lam, fleeing Detroit by taxi for New York--where, the string played out, he finally kills himself. Luke, feeling more inauthentic than ever compared to Michael, starts a magazine article about his old friend's life and death; but he finally gives it up, the past too painful. First-novelist Smith is able to produce a haze of fatigue over Michael's flight that is very good, and one character here--Michael's unlikely Catholic highschool girlfriend--comes vividly to life. Unfortunately, however, neither of the two crucial characters ever truly lights; they flicker at best. And Smith's whatever-happened-to-our-poor-generation longueurs are schematic and gauzey. Overall: a first novel that bears down too hard to be as expressive as it might have been, but an intelligent and promising debtor nonetheless.