E. Michael Ross is an untenured Slavic-languages professor at UCLA, now making his big academic move by collaborating on a memoir with Russian-expatriate novelist I.D. Ivanov, who is frail and at the end of his days. So, since Ivanov is clearly a simulation of the elderly V. Nabokov, Smoodin (Ursus Major, Presto!) includes parts of Ivanov's putative memoirs here--with a rather effete attempt to suggest the original's mandarin prose. (""The flatness of the city made the universe, overhead, seem accessible, seem a vast dome erected over a blighted aluminum Berlin, a show of stars arranged only for those awake and ambulant at this only clear time, the sole hour when the vampire-mist always shrouding the city lifted like a curtain, announcing the impending arrival of the new day."") Somewhat more effective than this bland literary mock-up is the intense, if rather predictable, love-interest here: Ross, the young and striving professor, soon becomes involved with Ivanov's wife Natasha--who is aging yet still very sexually alluring. But, more suggestive of a graduate-student's thesis than a story written out of passion or interest, this third Smoodin novel--a departure from the surreal whimsy of her previous efforts--remains a stubbornly inert performance overall: academic, heavyhanded, unpersuasive.