An unsure follow-up to Strange's debut novel Beginners--a brassy family comedy which displayed the charm and control which are missing here. Venice, California is the locale this time. And the quasi-hero is DeWitt Schultz, 23, a laid-back auto repairman whose off-work entertainment consists mainly of going to pick-up bars with best pal Ivan, getting high, or having health-food dinners with his cool young mom, Rebecca. Then, one night, in a bar called Bump's, DeWitt meets Carolyn McCann, drinker of White Russians and writer of TV game-show questions. Carolyn's pursuit of DeWitt thereafter is desultory but desperate--but it's not even in the same ball park with the anguish felt by friend Ivan, who's secretly gay and has been in love with DeWitt for ever so long. DeWitt himself, meanwhile, manages to build and lose a brief career as a primitive Pop sculptor; but this, as plot, doesn't come to much . . . nor does anything else in the novel. When Strange isn't writing a rueful but fleet sort of sit-com dialogue, she's indulging her characters in long fits of introspection (often drug-influenced) over very little. And though Ivan's yearning for DeWitt, scrupulously repressed, is subtle enough to be touching, it's too frail a weed in what is otherwise just a cute meander through trendy West Coast spaciness.