Noel Roth is a 36-year-old haberdasher with four stores in Westchester. He's got a daughter and a son and a wife, Susan, who suburbanly sculpts--but with few illusions: ""Every woman around here who ever held a crayon in her hand and is bored becomes a painter or a sculptor. She paints and sculpts and has that stuff framed and sells that shit."" So, extremely bored, Susan decides to have an affair, but on the day of her tryst an air conditioner falls from a window brace, killing both her and her lover as they stand in the street, kissing. And the absurd shamefulness of this death sends Noel rocking in crazy arcs afterward: solitude; a sudden sympathy for a fellow-absurd like Richard Nixon; psychotherapy with his kids; and--the piÃ¨ce de rÃ‰sistance--a kink-o bondage-and-domination relationship with a ravishing Village dominatrix named Nevers and her 15-year-old black female assistant Melonie. Reminiscent somewhat of early and freshest Bruce Jay Friedman, this fiction debut has a nice dark way with the tang of cruel humor--especially in Noel's relationship with best-friend Phil (who drags Noel with him to stag weekends at the Concord) and in the lavish catering of Noel's shiva-sitting: ""Phoebe and Lois ordered fifty pounds nova, twenty pounds sturgeon, four turkeys, four roast beefs, one hundred rye breads, eighty dozen mixed bagels, some with seeds and some without, two meat loaves with garlic and two meat loaves without garlic. . . . People were sitting wherever chairs were available, with paper plates balanced delicately on their knees. The local police were directing traffic. Everyone was there."" But the book doesn't even begin to hang together--despite a running gag about a ridiculous suburban cop who trails Noel everywhere. And, though this is a very promising debut, with sharpness aplenty, it's awfully ragged and rattling as a novel.