Loewinsohn's first novel, Magnetic Field(s) (1983), gave the impression of something tricked-up and jerry-built; a feeling that the metafictional pleatings--the days of a composer who's creating an unknown masterpiece out of the sounds of his life--hid a vanilla banality. Now that Loewinsohn asks David Lyman the composer to make an encore, in a novel with none of the pretentious narrative techniques of its predecessor, you're both glad that the fancy-dancing is dispensed with but also somewhat taken aback by just how plainly unimaginative, old hat it all is. San Francisco-based David (his masterpiece still barely attended) finds himself in an affair with a student musician rehearsing in the small orchestra he leads. Ginny already has a boyfriend in Atlanta, David a wife and teen-aged son--but to David, the sex and the enthusiasm and the laughter and the risk are intoxicating. (Wife Jane, on the other hand, is furiously involved in nuclear-freeze activities, including a die-in: not exactly the tonic to raise a middle-aged man's crisis-ridden spirits.) But Ginny finally goes back to the Atlanta boyfriend--crushing David, who then must try to pick up the pieces of his life. In clunky, graceless prose (""He'd been drinking too much. He knew he would have to stop. It had helped, though, and pretty soon now he would be able to put that crutch away too. These crutches""), Loewinsohn drives David and Ginny to favorite restaurants and mountain views and travel memories, which seems about all he can do with characters this intrinsically leaden, boring. Even Bay-Area-style angst has to be a little less comatose than this.