Natalie Breshnikov, sometime student and sometime painter, living up near Columbia U. in Manhattan, composes other people's hard-to-write letters for a living--which is a promising enough notion for a whimsical comic novel. Unfortunately, however, Natalie spends most of her time here (as the narration switches its pronouns around for no good reason) brooding on creativity, love, and existence: ""I'm always thinking something. Stuff keeps whirring through my mind with a velocity which makes me think that there is no proportionate relationship between time in the mind and the actual nature of space."" She has sex with dumb waiter Chuck but is obsessed with long-time chum Charlie, a blocked literary academic who can't seem to make the move toward consummation (neither can Natalie). She dwells on her mind-blowing resemblance to Botticelli's model in Allegory of Spring; so there are fantasy-sequences involving Botticelli, his model, and Savonarola. She also resurrects her ancestors--from Russian-immigrant great-grandmother to rich father--for more interpolated flashbacks. And finally, after Charlie and Natalie at last team up (despite some messy problems with oral sex), there's a trip to London, Charlie's destruction of Natalie's lookalike picture (""Natalie finds herself moaning in a thin, low voice of grief""), and Natalie's eventual time-traveling reunion with Botticelli in Florence: ""There is no alternative except to live,"" she tells Signor B., ""whether we like it or not."" Hard-working, effortfully erudite--and sadly amateurish.