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"Levine's stories are riveting and subtle, shot through with a muted wisdom and palpable compassion." ?Publisher's Weekly
Tom Mahoney is the golden boy everyone knew in school: good-looking, charming, an athlete---sought after by women, the envy of men. His success in life seems a foregone conclusion. In The Appearance of a Hero, Tom navigates the passage into adulthood, his story chronicled from every perspective but his own.
Tom crisscrosses the country in search of direction, affecting the lives of everyone he meets. The recounting of his illicit affair with an older colleague reveals a young man unprepared for the emotional entanglements that come with love. Tom's father, Stuart, struggles to reconcile Tom's splendor with his shortcomings, as he watches his only child fail to live up to expectations. A young couple befriends an unsuspecting Tom, attempting to extract the very qualities others find so alluring about him. For an aging tennis partner, Tom serves as a lens through which the man is able to understand his early years of fatherhood. A girlfriend, enamored by Tom, attempts to isolate him, with shocking consequences.
As the mythology surrounding Tom grows richer, Tom struggles to understand what exactly has eluded him, and in stories that grow increasingly desperate and heartbreaking, we begin to see that being an icon is not all it's cracked up to be. In this haunting short story collection, Peter Levine offers a portrait of a hero for the twenty-first century, a man whose legend is constructed not by himself but by those around him, all desperate for someone to idolize.
At the center of Levine's excellent debut story collection is Tom Mahoney, a young Chicago salesman with career aspirations. We follow Tom's interactions through the eyes of friends and associates: in "Our Hero David Katz," the awkward business student who tries to impress his friends with wild tales of his fictional brother's globe-trotting exploits; or Tom's neighbors, the fathers in "Princess," who, on a camping trip with their daughters, cross a delicate line. While the subjects are diverse, Tom remains the focus: his first love with a troubled older woman; his reluctant entry into the business world; being used and abandoned by women. Though a lost soul whom happiness and success eludes, to other men Tom embodies masculinity, sexual prowess, and bottomless sociability. Emasculated by modern life, these men need to believe in some fount of virility and independence. Though overly sentimental about the lost "heroes" of upper-middle-class manhood, Levine's stories are riveting and subtle, shot through with a muted wisdom and palpable compassion. He chronicles Tom's new lost generation: privileged millennials who grow up to find that life is always elsewhere.