This dazzling collection of four stories features characters bound together by their parallel moments of reckoning with their pasts—and proves the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls is also a master of the short story.
“Beautiful…. Will abruptly break your heart.” —The New York Times
The characters in these four expansive stories are a departure from the blue-collar denizens that populate so many of Richard Russo’s novels. In “Horseman,” a young professor confronts an undergraduate plagiarist—as well as her own regrets. In “Intervention,” a realtor facing a serious medical prognosis finds himself in his late father’s shadow. “Voice” gives us a semiretired academic who is conned by his estranged brother into joining a group tour of the Venice Biennale. And “Milton and Marcus” takes us into a lapsed novelist’s attempt to rekindle his screenwriting career—a career that depends wholly, at a crucial moment, on two Hollywood icons (one living, one dead).
Look for Richard Russo's new book, Somebody's Fool, coming soon.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Novelist Richard Russo’s 12th book collects four short works: voice-driven, empathetic fiction that gets inside the minds of people who spend a lot of time in their heads. Their compelling and relatable internal monologues pick over topics like brothers’ relationships and how, with so much shared experience, their worldviews can be so bafflingly different. Russo mines his experience as both a screenwriter and an academic for insights into the ways knowledge and feeling can sometimes be at war with one another, especially when dealing with people you love.
The four stories in Russo's (Everybody's Fool) new collection are all winners, and one is a standout. His familiar blue-collar denizens of dying mill towns are not present here; these characters are professionals, middle-aged or beyond, successful in their careers but feeling weathered by life's vicissitudes. The trajectory they travel involves coming to terms with life-changing situations and gamely going on. As always, snappy banter defines personality; Russo's ear for dialogue is superb. In "Horseman," a female professor's confrontation with a student plagiarist forces her to acknowledge the coldness in her nature that has kept her from producing significant work and establishing a deep emotional relationship with her husband and son. In "Voice," a student with acute Asperger's syndrome is the object of an obsession that embroils a professor in a scandal. The experience leads to a clarifying breakthrough with his domineering older brother. Another strained family relationship is explored in "Intervention" when a Maine realtor gains clarity about his father's behavior as he comes to terms with a dire medical diagnosis. The final story, "Milton and Marcus," is the most satisfying: a novelist whose work has lost vitality has a chance to write a movie from one of his forgotten scripts, but to do so he must ignore his own ethical standards. Russo develops these stories with smooth assurance, allowing readers to discover layers of meaning in his perfectly calibrated narration. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
I read almost everything this author puts out, but these three short stories feel like efforts to get something going, each failing.