What a pair. Brian Stoppard is a suburban golden-boy who becomes a Yale man and then, for lack of anything better to do, a full-time European vacationer. Howard Cohen is a doting admirer who sets down Brian's dumb life in prose appropriate to a bookish, slow-witted youngster--though by the end of the book, when narrator Howard discovers a weakness in his hero Brian and therefore naturally stops being his friend, Howard is supposed to be a best-selling (and wealthy) author. Howard comes out a winner, you see, while Brian's chief fascination all along has been his ability to win at every game. Howard treats the reader to interminable strategic and psychological analyses of Brian's utterly joyless games of touch football, monopoly, baseball, fist-fighting, chess, bridge, poker, and getting laid. But then his fatal flaw is revealed to Howard (who is melodramatic if not swift): ""Thousands of years of struggle, of development; benefited by years of the best education; pampered in every detail; a rich, healthy, brilliant young man incapable of love for anything, even himself. This is America, I thought."" Poor disillusioned Howard is now ""doomed to live like the rest of you: in a godless universe."" Well, kid, there's the breaks.