By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated May 13, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Max, the narrator of Louis Begley’s third novel in almost as many years, is a prototypical Begley character: antiseptic, intellectually pristine, emotionally imprisoned. These are, of course, also the qualities that make for the best observers, and Max is certainly that, too. Though a mere law professor, he moves in very highfalutin circles, and his commentary on the leisure class is both witty and cutting. It thus suits Max to have a friend like Charlie: zesty, physically huge, unembarrassingly sexual, and extremely successful as an architect. Max’s friendship with Charlie, renewed some decades after school, is the basis for the narrative arc of the book, As Max Saw It, and Charlie’s relationship with his astonishingly beautiful young boyfriend Toby, and Max’s with Toby, and Toby’s with other people, is its heart. The ending, when it comes, is all the more arresting and disquieting for its immediacy. It will haunt your dreams.