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.