A quietly diverting chronicle of friendship taxed to its limits, narrated by the duller friend. As such, it is similar to watching a well-made cup of coffee cool down. Alan and hapless Burt are the men in question, New Yorkers whose history reaches back to their college days. In a somewhat tired modality, Alan was the outgoing romantic who had the ideal love affair, complete with yelping sex, with Suzanne, a stunning blond. Sensitive, shy, hapless Burt (who narrates) longingly watched the lovers tumble in the grass from afar. As they are introduced to the reader, hapless Burt now observes Alan’s pleasant marriage to Lori, wistfully imagining her stifled potential as an artist while forcing himself to admire Alan’s success as a real estate owner. Suzanne reappears in their lives, prompting the full history of her painful breakup with Alan, which concluded with his putative suicide attempt. Alan sees Suzanne again, goes nuts, and pursues her, leaving his wife in the cold. Poor old hapless Burt, of course, is there to comfort Lori and considers himself a possible candidate for the newly single artist’s affection. They make tepid love, exchange tepid kisses, and hapless Burt tepidly wonders if he’s doing the right thing. Meanwhile, Suzanne and Alan’s affair takes a nosedive, Alan’s business begins to collapse, and just as Burt begins to feel Lori tipping toward marriage, Alan returns, hat in hand. Hapless Burt is tossed aside, but later concludes that his friendship with Alan remains strong. You get the picture: he’s hapless. Burt’s characterization of his own, eventual marriage——No more loneliness, but no more thrills——nicely captures the companionship readers will find with this debut novel.