Book opens with a provocative X-rated grabber (think: kneepads) and closes with a mealymouthed moral. In the 300-some intervening pages, novelist Joe Goffman returns to his hometown of Bush Falls, Conn., after a 17-year absence to tend to his dying father. The problem? Everyone wants to beat the stuffing out of him since he wrote a thinly veiled best-seller vilifying them all. Tropper aims for Seinfeldian irony crossed with '80s nostalgia (Springsteen references abound, as if he needs to prove his too-cool hero wasn't into Tiffany). The first half succeeds as an intriguing throwback to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, but by the second half, Joe devolves into a lad-lit ass. And following his exploits is difficult since all of Tropper's characters speak in the same flip voice.