A cataract of long, rambling, cynically serious speeches gives flesh to Horwitz's nearly plotless new novel, a novel which is shaped around the suicide of an artist not unlike the late Mark Rothko. Arthur Bell, one of the richest and most famous of the post-WW II abstract painters, hangs himself--almost literally from the height of his accomplishment (a huge stainless-steel sculpture, slated for a bank). His best friend and the critic who established his career in the early days, Howard Adams, spends the weeks that follow in speculative agony, searching for the why behind so final and--by the world's standards--incomprehensible an act. Everyone has an idea or twelve to contribute: Bell's detested, detesting, but steadfast wife, Alice; his disaffected children; his dealer; his best collector; even his cleaning woman. And all of their puzzled responses are aired at length: ""I don't know if animals have a need for art, but they certainly have a need to end their loneliness. A great work of art ends our loneliness for us. Maybe for an hour, a day, two days, a week. Great art stops time. We are lonely because we don't know where time is taking us. Art stops time."" So many near-orations, aside from bleeding one into another, make also for a book badly in need of a drink of water in the form of some variety of action. That's not here. Still, though repetitious, what the people closest to the fall of Arthur Bell do try to say is often the real, rock-bottom stuff: earnest and occasionally even brilliant maunderings over the situation of art in our day. Some provocative reflections, then, in a virtual non-novel--by the author of Natural Enemies, Landfall, and others.