At 11:00 each night a young woman named Jesse enters a broken-down bar in St. Thomas where Paul McFarland sits brooding. She pays the piano player to play This Time the Dream's on Me, drinks a martini and leaves. Characters in this intensely narcissistic novel are given to gestures like that, watching themselves in mirrors, as the images evoked by torch songs do their work for them. Here is McFarland, a screenwriter with homes in New York and Malibu, soon to be conveniently bereft of wife and child, who falls for Jesse though she will betray him over and over. Still, that's part of her magic along with the fluttering fragility that reminds him of his mother who was really ""bonkers."" We're informed of McFarland's ""moral strength"" and ""decent instincts"" and that might almost be true by comparison with the pimps, pushers and pederasts who are all running with him on the same slick track. The territory here, physical as well as moral, is one well staked out by Joan Didion--angst in the aisles of Saks, despair amid the designer labels, cushioned by all that money. Her version, however, is miles beyond this careless, unfocused work.