Thirty-five-year-old Clyde Carmichael spends too much time at things that make him miserable: teaching at a posh but flaky adult learning centre; devouring forgettable celebrity biographies; and obsessing about his ex-lover, Gordon. Clyde's other chief pursuit is dodging his family - his maddeningly insecure sister and his irascible father, who may or may not be at death's door. In fact, Clyde's in danger of becoming as aimless as Marcus, his handsome (and unswervingly straight) roommate, who's spent ten years on one dissertation and far too many fizzled relationships.
Enter Louise Morris: Clyde's old friend and Marcus's onetime lover is a restless writer and single mother, who shows up with her son, Ben, and a neurotic dog in tow. The looming question of Ben's paternity nudges Clyde back into the orbit of his own father - and propels our hero into the kind of bittersweet emotional terrain that McCauley has made entirely his own.
Stephen McCauley is the author of Alternatives to Sex, The Object of My Affection, made into a film starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, True Enough, and The Easy Way Out, all available from Granta Books. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.