Lopate's narrator, Eric Eisner, 26 and just back in New York from a, couple of dud years in California, is immediately caught up in an emotional tangle that takes years to sort out. Marie, girlfriend of Eric's best friend Jack Bogardes, attracts Eric's fancy; their relationship, cautious and unsure at first, appears to anchor Eric first to Jack (in a perverse way), to New York, and only last to Marie herself. Then Jack, a golden-boy journalist, wrecks the status quo by discovering Marie's infidelity--and being promptly devastated at Eric's treachery and interloping. Thus, hurt begins to crust over all the Jules and Jim fecklessness; and this French flavor--the characters drawing dose, pulling away, drawing close, pulling away--allows Lopate's first novel its seriousness. Unfortunately, however, the author often sabotages himself with over-thick reflectiveness and pseudo-poetic effects: ""At two in the morning, when everything seemed Negro. . . . the realization of ache, and on top of everything, weariness, serenity, indifference."" Yes, dreadful. But as exasperating as Lopate's dose-quarters may sometimes feel, the anxious dialogue and stick-to-it-iveness of the three people in the triangle do--if you hang in there--become very real and familiar: once you're in, you wonder, along with Eric, if there's any way to get out. Too long, too unvaried, and occasionally embarrassing; but the single point--how a casual mistake can turn into a major life dilemma--is pressed hard enough to make a strong impression.