cover image I Pass Like Night

I Pass Like Night

Jonathan Ames. William Morrow & Company, $15.95 (167pp) ISBN 978-0-688-07804-1

Sex, isolation and urban squalor are the ingredients of this coolly objective, rather studied first novel by a 1987 Princeton graduate. Living alone in New York with no apparent goals or meaningful connections in his life, Alexander Vine uses sex to stave off ennui. The circumstances are of no particular importance to him, nor are his partners: men when he's drunk; a female lover named Joy for whom he feels nothing; waterfront vagrants and street hookers when he can't get it any other way. As the encounters (all explicit, all presented as passionless transactions) accumulate, Vine becomes ever more alienated, but exactly where his downward spiral will lead remains murky. Ames's novel is composed of episodes and fragments, all reported in the kind of carefully toneless style that's meant to suggest the deadened nerve-endings of a shell-shocked soul. Despite the no-holds-barred accounts of his liaisons, Vine's lack of introspection distances the reader from the story. (Aug.)