Historian Leo Hertzberg become friends with artist Bill Wechsler when he buys a huge portrait of Bill's model Violet, and the two are inseparable ever after. Leo's wife Erica and Bill's wife, Lucille, give birth to sons in the same year and, soon aft... show all erward, the Wechslers buy a loft in the same SoHo building. When the boys are four, Bill and Lucille are divorced, and Bill marries his model/second wife Violet. Linked by their love of art and language, the two couples talk insatiably about art and life, celebrating triumphs and weathering tragedy together. Bill and Lucille's son, Mark, a dangerously charming boy, grows up and slips into a sinister New York club scene.