Philosophy professor Larry Farley is taking a sabbatical to fit ""Heidegger's notion of Dasein into a computer model."" Lausanne expat Ferguson's gabby, complacent novel follows Farley through his down time: his relationship with his dog, Freda; his separation from his wife, Carole; his affair with an ex-student; his mother's Alzheimer's disease. All the while, Ferguson interweaves various reminiscences of Farley's old metaphysics lectures as well as news stories about the Big Bang from the New York Times science section. The single, glaring problem with Ferguson's otherwise observant, witty English-language debut (after two French publications) is that he seems to want us to like sentimental, self-indulgent Farley, even take him seriously. But what sets this book apart from portraits of intellectuals just as flawed and randy as Farley (Lucky Jim and Herzog spring to mind) is, first, that Ferguson brings no distance to his sympathy for his hero and, second, that Farley isn't much of a thinker to begin with. Philosophy baffles him (a fact he hides from his students and himself, with Ferguson's evident approval, behind bluff, anti-egghead hogwash). Other characters (his wife, his kids) are amusing, even if Ferguson bends them to fit the mold of Farley's own self-satisfaction--but by the end of the book we get too little of them and much too much of Farley. (Aug.) FYI: Selected by Barnes & Noble for its Discover Great New Writers series.