Dick's second novel (after Without Falling, 1988--not reviewed) begins with a clever nouvelle roman flourish but soon finds its own level as a pretentious, stilted melodrama set in the so-called art worlds of London and New York in the Eighties. Told from the perspective of a neurasthenic young art critic named Connie, this self-consciously cinematic narrative concerns an on-again, off-again love triangle that can't sustain the weight of such belabored analysis. The opening scene, in which Connie witnesses a suicide, provides an interesting exercise in context and perspective but finally has little to do with the main story. Jumping back and forth through time, Connie meditates on her friendship with artists Michael and Ruby, her friends since they were all so young, and pretty and brilliant, according to Connie. What they say and do and create, however, suggests a trio of sexually promiscuous, politically shallow, and artistically lame characters more concerned with acting like artists than producing anything of real value. Brooding Michael is given to excess (he takes lots of heroin) and says things like ``God, it's all so fucking bourgeois.'' Ruby, a fellow Brit, also walks on the wild side and espouses revolutionary chic ideology. Connie, herself ``succumbed to ennui,'' romances death but doesn't take as many drugs--she reads Sylvia Plath instead. Half-American, she too has everything paid for by Mummy and Daddy. Her experience of art is hardly hypercritical (``She was knocked out by the Warhol''), and her reflections on her relationships are surprisingly girlish. An extended episode about a $500 debt suggests that Connie might be even crazier than she or her creator realizes. Imagine Tama Janowitz's ``art scene'' without even an attempt at humor, and you begin to get the silly solemnity of this self- mythologizing novel whose main characters are an annoying, whiny bunch of poseurs.