Jeff Baldini, aging orphan, still lives in the apartment of his childhood in a walk-up building in the north Bronx--only floors below his still-best-friend (and chief antagonist) Leon Epstein. Leon works at the post office; but Jeff doesn't work at all, living off his parents' insurance and occasional telephone jobs for a Mafioso cousin, needing little money because he rarely ever ventures from the apartment. Jeff, you see, isn't really living on Decatur Avenue near Bainbridge in the Bronx. In his mind he's actually in Singapore at every moment--the Singapore of Zachary Scott and Faye Emerson movies, the Singapore of sailors with crows perched on their shoulders in water-front dives filled with slit-skirted whores, yet also a Singapore of odd inverted mores: a popular novel about floods is called Parched; stray dogs evict human squatters from vacant lots; the baseball heroes are the losers of a game; people practice obligatory meditation sessions that drive them crazy with boredom; dates are made via wrong numbers. This Singapore, in other words, is the anti-Bronx of an agoraphobic nervous wreck--a mental duchy that's entirely exempt from anything as fly-blown or depressing as the Bronx (and slobby Leon Epstein). And first-novelist Bernardini keeps Jeff's sad, manic invention ever-churning, pausing to correct itself, then whipping itself ever on to further novelty. Still, though much of this is genuinely funny/tragic, with a few (too few) bright Art-Carney-ish appearances by Leon and the strong, realistic implication that Jeff is quite sick, the ultimate effect is oppressive: a monotonic performance, claustrophobic and eventually tiresome--talented, imaginative, yet limited in appeal.