Earl's first novel concerns a Picassoid American painter, Gulliver Quick, and the harem of women--mother, daughters, lovers, mistresses, wives--in attendance to him lifelong. Born to a soon- to-split marriage, with his father a jazz musician, Gulliver goes to Europe and in quick succession meets Marika, Sophia (and lives bigamously with them both); then Astrid (a married doctor who leaves her husband for him, and when rejected by Gulliver becomes a renowned--and obese--feminist writer, changing her name to Ariana) and Katrina and, finally, Tulip. His old mother, May, also reenters his life. Gulliver disappoints all but the last and first with his helpless infidelities--yet Earl's admiring narrator indicates that women are drawn to self-confident men no matter how caddish. Gulliver himself is hardly a character here, as cardboard a fictional artist as they come; and there are doughy lumps of wisdom strewn everywhere (``Our dreams are inexplicable, incalculable. Life is frivolous, obscure. We are soloists in a group dance, linked by choreography none can capture''). Still, Earl does keep the pasha-and-his-ladies theme going briskly if none too credibly.