You’ve got to hand it to an author with the stones to footnote his own monograph on a fictitious artist (1998’s Nat Tate: An American Artist) in a diary of a fictitious writer. Inter-meta-textual showboating aside, Boyd’s novel is an unconsummated love affair with the 20th century. Logan Mountstuart–born rich and raised in post-WWI England–buzzes Zelig-like around the fringes of history, consorting with the great artists of his age, including Hemingway, Picasso, and Pollock. But despite some of Logan’s wild avocations–spy, art dealer, accidental radical, whoremonger–this exceptional life happens to be lived by a strikingly unexceptional man. That very mediocrity makes Logan somewhat endearing, but it also ends up begging the most fatal of questions: So what?