Nightswimmer Joseph Olshan (Simon & Schuster, $20) Maybe Chad drowned in the night surf. Or maybe he just staged his mysterious disappearance as a cruel way of leaving Will Kaplan, his gay lover. For 10 years the uncertainty of it obsesses Will, making new love as hard to trust as sex in the era of AIDS. Will’s resulting story seems, at first, just a melodrama of Manhattan and Fire Island couplings and spats. It’s full of oblique eroticism (”the dark obscenity of his armpits”), cute touches (Will’s longing for monogamous phone sex), chic prose, and silliness (disputes over the custody of a dog). But Olshan tries to use all this annoyingly trendy froth to sneak up and confront us with something more frightening: the violent emotional forces that can renew life-or destroy it. Like the ocean, Nightswimmer is brutally violent just beneath its placid surface. B —DAB
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