An impressive debut--the short, surreal tale of a young Jewish man who cuts his middle-class ties to pursue a path of spiritual and sexual degradation on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Alexander Vine likes to pick up prostitutes. He was raised in suburban New Jersey by earnest Jewish parents, but he rejects college and the bourgeois life to lurk through the shadows of the Lower East Side. He likes being out in the night, watching the street whores pace and huddle together like jungle cats, hiding from the vice squad: ""These cats, Numa the lion and Sheeta the leopard, knew every creature that passed through the forest and knew what it would do. More whores came to hide in the park and they were all like those cats, hissing to one another'ssquad. . .sssquad. . .they comin.' "" During the day, Vine works as a doorman at The Four Seasons restaurant, but only enough to make rent money and money for whores. Vine likes bums, tenderly interviewing the ravaged men who hang around the Bowery, bluntly describing their dirty, braised bodies. He used to pretend he was a bum with his childhood best-friend Ethan, but when he thinks about his sweet all-American boyhood he remembers that Ethan abandoned him in the end--sometime after they got drunk on beer and made love. Vine still makes loves to men when he gets drunk, and these days it makes him think about dying from AIDS. The night before he gets the results of his first AIDS test (it's negative), he visits his hometown. Spying on his parents' cozy, lit-up house, he realizes he can't go in. He belongs to the shadows, to what was once the immigrant Jewish Lower East Side. Except that now it's a place of wild freedom and devastation. Ames writes like a drug-free (sex-addicted) Jim Carroll, setting down haunting urban scenes in a spare style that works like poetry. A first novel that's likely to make waves among the young literary set.