A first collection of 11 interrelated stories--about the coming of age and failure-ridden adulthood of a narcissistic Florida architect unable to finish anything. We meet Dan Foley in ""Foley's Escape Story"" when he experiences his ""first removal"" and embalming of a body with his undertaker father. ""Foley's Life Story"" takes this would-be hero to the University of Florida, where Foley's penchant to make things up, or to lie, about his life in order to improve upon it, reveals a pattern that will emerge more fully in later stories such as ""Rapture,"" in which Foley ""decides to do something about his lying"" before getting mixed up with an old man and a pumpkin and lying again. In ""Foley's Confessions,"" he meets his future wife, Grace, and spies on her, resulting in a catastrophe, but by ""Foley's Luck,"" he is married with children, bemoaning the day he killed a fox with his Chevy as the day his luck turned. Obsessed, he keeps a list of unlucky events until he has nearly driven his wife crazy and his friends away. In ""Foley's Motto,"" then, Grace has had enough of Foley's starts and stops. The two separate, and Foley begins a new life, one no more satisfying to him than the old one. In ""Foley's Avenger,"" his daughter runs off to a man, and Foley goes after her, once again reduced to voyeurism by story's end. Finally, in ""Foley the Great,"" Chiarella allows his hero a chance to tie up some loose ends and, famished for intimacy and closure, a chance to understand that, as an architect at least, he did manage to finish some things. The gimmicky structure wears thin, but, at best, a heartbreaking look at certain dramatized paucities of modern life.