Young Americans in contemporary Paris, walking a fine line between friendship and love: the idea sounds irresistible, yet for all the care Kafka has taken with his second fiction (following the novella Home Again—not reviewed), it stubbornly refuses to fly. Meet Dan and Beck (straight males, roommates) and Margot and Bou (gay women, lovers). The four of them are on an expatriate high, digging Paris, mixing their medical studies with jazz (Beck and Margot have regular gigs) and modern dance (Dan has joined a company). (Their story is being told by Dan four years later, when they have all dispersed and Dan is helping deliver babies in New Orleans; hospital scenes are awkwardly juxtaposed with memories of Paris.) When Dan meets the two women, he falls in love with them both, ``not indistinguishably but inseparably, and always,'' cherishing their relationship. Things don't stay that high-flown, and Dan doesn't stay that starry-eyed, for all along he has been more attracted to Bou, the tall exotic New Englander, than to the more familiar Margot, like Dan a middle-class Jewish only child. Dan and Bou sleep together; Margot is predictably upset, calling Dan ``a first-class shit,'' while acknowledging that Bou always wanted ``a guy on the side.'' Then Dan discovers that Beck, too, has been sleeping with Bou, and the four-way friendship collapses like a house of cards. A busy surface (Kafka sets his scenes meticulously) but a hollow center: this aseptic love story gives off no erotic heat at all. And the characters are fuzzy: Margot is conspicuously short- changed, almost disappearing, and it's not clear whether Bou is an ``innocent menace'' or simply a tramp.