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FICTION : THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION by Stephen McCauley (Simon & Schuster: $17.95; 316 pp.).

May 03, 1987|Sarah Gold

Stephen McCauley, a columnist for the Boston Phoenix, has written a warmly engaging first novel about a strictly 1980s odd couple. George is a gay, graduate school dropout who teaches kindergarten in a school for yuppie puppies; Nina is a feminist psychologist who makes no apologies for her politically incorrect long fingernails. They live together in Brooklyn in an endearing state of downscale disarray, taking dancing lessons together at Arthur Murray, doing crossword puzzles and, when romance fails, finding solace in their ambiguous relationship, which George describes as "a long and unconsummated courtship between two people with no expectations." But one day, Nina announces that she's pregnant and doesn't intend to marry the father, and she asks George to help her raise the baby. George goes hot and cold on the idea as he realizes that, despite his fear of commitment, he is something like in love with a man he has met one weekend in Vermont.

Sometimes the manners in this comedy seem more like mannerisms, some of the characters too thin, and one is disappointed when George and Nina come to their senses and do the mature thing, going their own ways with their lives. But a final, bittersweet encounter rounds out his novel which is full of wonderful moments, gentle humor, and a happily jaundiced view of contemporary attitudes and inanities.

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