The good news at hand is that Michael Brodsky has a highly sophisticated intellectual matrix and a currying care for language. Less good news is that he's spilled his smarts into a container so large, diffuse, and vermiculated that their energies don't tally. The young nameless narrator of this first novel, a fingerchewing genius who's fanatic about classic movies, meets Irene, an ex-heroin-addict; together they move to Cleveland, where the narrator is set to start medical school and where he'll soon lose Irene to the vicissitudes of communal living arrangements. Around this slim stalk grows up a whole rainforest of undergraduate pyrotechnics, chiefly in molten, fervid form: ""I did not try to register every little motion of the twigs and try to relate it to the prior motion and the motion to come and manufacture sentences that flaunted a parody of causation."" Prose like this is either genuinely phenomenological or else it's tendentious: the line between them is too thin for Brodsky to yet draw. Even in the best, often savagely analytical pages here--about the narrator's parents, about another character's mental-hospital memories--Brodsky remains so deeply in love with his own phrases that he renders large sections of the book unreadable. What's painfully proven, though, is that Brodsky's a comer, chockablock with high intentions and nerve. Perhaps next time he'll deliver more than a textbook of difficult, subtle surfaces, more than a student's flash.